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Royal Navy sailors to drive ambulances in Wales

25 October 2021
Royal Navy sailors are swapping missions on ships and aircraft for duties as ambulance drivers across Wales to help alleviate pressure on health services this autumn.

The authorities have asked for military help to ease the strain on health services with unprecedented demand and continual pressures because of Covid.

Fifty sailors and airmen from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are the second group of volunteers to come forward and will join 50 British Army soldiers from 4 Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, already driving ambulances across Wales.

In total 129 personnel are supporting the NHS in this, with 100 driving ambulances and a further 29 in support roles.

The Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust trained military personnel in how to deliver support on emergency callouts and familiarised them with the vehicles and equipment they will be operating.  

The military ambulance drivers will assist in patient handling, but will not be conducting any patient treatment beyond the help a paramedic would normally call upon from a public bystander.

Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Adrian Davies from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, Somerset, said: “We’re here to train with the NHS Welsh Ambulance Service and help out in any way we can, in a non-clinical role. It’s a very worthwhile cause. 

“Working together with the other services here is great, we’ve come together well, it’s a good mix. I will be stationed in Cardigan on the West coast and looking forward to working with the professional paramedics.” 

Lieutenant Commander Graeme ‘Geordie’ McCutcheon, from Jarrow, volunteered to drive non-emergency ambulances to allow the trust to free up resources for front-line services.

The 52-year-old pilot and instructor is usually based at air station Culdrose in Cornwall with 750 Naval Air Squadron.

He said: “When I heard they were looking for volunteers, I didn’t hesitate. I like to make time to see how I can give something back to the community. I’ve been a school governor, a volunteer children’s swimming coach and a leader with the Scout Association.

“This is such a worthwhile cause and you can’t beat the NHS for the amazing work they do. If they need help, then I am happy to step up and help where I can.”

It is the third time the military have supported the West Ambulance Service through the pandemic as part of the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) arrangement.

More than 200 British Army soldiers have already assisted the Trust’s Covid-19 effort by driving and decontaminating ambulance vehicles as part of Operation Rescript. 

More broadly, around 20,000 military personnel have been supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of a ‘COVID Support Force.’

Lee Brooks, the Trust’s Director of Operations, said: “We’re proud and grateful to have the military working alongside us once again, who did a superb job of assisting us on two occasions previously last year. Having our Armed Forces colleagues back on board will help us put more ambulances on duty so we can get to more patients, more quickly, while the extreme pressure continues.  

 “Essentially, they’ll work with one of our clinicians on an emergency ambulance responding to the full range of emergency calls. The winter period is our busiest time, and having military support will bolster our capacity and put us in the best possible position to provide a safe service to the people of Wales.”

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