COVID: Soldiers support Welsh Ambulance Service

Soldiers have been driving ambulances in Wales to support paramedics battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Servicemen and women were called in to ease the pressure on local paramedics as they dealt with a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

The soldiers have been in Wales, driving ambulances for six weeks and for many of them, it is a very different type of deployment.

In the case of Corporal Iain Shearsby, a veteran of Afghanistan and the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, it is his first operation on home soil despite being in the military for 17 years.

"With our role in assisting them, the level of calls that they go to and the type of patients that they go to, they’re not always well received by the patient," said Corporal Shearsby, a Combat Medical Technician, from 5 Armoured Medical Regiment.

"Sometimes they don't want the help. It can be quite challenging, quite tough, just to break down barriers."

The soldiers have been assisting the Welsh Ambulance Service across the country.
The soldiers have been assisting the Welsh Ambulance Service across the country.

Since late last year, 69 soldiers have been in Wales driving ambulances and providing support to 110 ambulance stations across the country.

It marks the second time during the pandemic that soldiers have been deployed to Wales as ambulance drivers, after first being deployed last April.

As the second wave of the virus took hold of the nation, the ambulance service found itself stretched.

The number of emergency calls doubled and 17% of its staff, around 700 employees, were either ill or self-isolating.

The situation led officials to make a second Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) request and by Christmas Eve, the troops were back.

Welsh Ambulance and British Army personnel near Welsh Ambulance vehicle during covid coronavirus pandemic 080221 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
The personnel are expected to continue supporting the service until the end of March.

Since then, the soldiers have been called upon to drive ambulances more than 3,000 times.

Although they are not allowed to drive under the blue lights, soldiers still go to regular 999 calls and medical emergencies ranging from road traffic accidents to childbirths.

Ambulance operations manager at Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, Darren Panniers, told Forces News the military is giving them "a level of soldier that is used to dealing with certain circumstances".

He added: "Some of the things we see on a daily basis can be quite traumatic... it takes a certain kind of person to deal with those situations."

The Army drivers are due to continue their deployment in Wales until the end of March.

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