Members from each section of the Armed Forces are being trained to drive on blue-lights to assist the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS).
The military blue-light drivers will be able to bolster the number of emergency ambulances which can be out on the road at any one time as the ‘peak’ in COVID-19 cases is expected to occur in the next few weeks.
Emergency ambulance crews have seen their numbers dwindle as medics are forced to self-isolated after showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Many front-line medics do not have the correct levels of PPE (as advised by the World Health Organisation) when coming into contact with patients who are infected with COVID-19.
In order to assist, in this case, SCAS, military units in the region have released 80 military staff on a full-time basis from their regular military duties to take part in the enhanced training.
The 80 blue-light drivers already volunteer with SCAS as ‘co-responders’ in their spare time, meaning that they are already well-versed in the standard operating procedures of the ambulance service.
However, they are now full-time members of the emergency teams who respond to 999 calls around the region.
COVID-19 has bought with it a vast increase in the volume of calls being made to both the 999 and 111 service.
Director of Operations for SCAS Mark Ainsworth has said that SCAS currently have 180 operation emergency ambulances out on the road each week.
Modelling carried out by SCAS indicates that the service will need 240 or more emergency ambulances to keep up with the demand being placed on them during the COVID-19 national emergency.
“The military coming in to support us with their co-responders, being out in the ambulances, we are probably going to get 20 to 30 extra ambulance per day out operational to help the demand as that increase over the coming weeks”.
The blue-light course will only take three days to complete since the military co-responders are already blue-light trained on Rapid Response Vehicles RRVs).
Corporal Kristian Roger is a co-responder in his spare time, meaning that he usually drives a Ford Mondeo on blue-lights.
The new training will mean that he will be able to drive the larger ambulances.
Cpl Roger said:
“It’s getting used to the size, the capability and the weight of the new vehicle as well. So far, it is going quite well.”
Major Emma Allen, who runs the military co-responder team, explained why none of the military unit would be wearing uniforms:
“Us wearing military uniform might distract from the care we are going to provide.
“We have been fully trained by South Central Ambulance Service, and we are there to act.
“So, there is no difference between the qualifications that we have and the skills that are being delivered by the service itself.”
Along with driving the emergency ambulances, the team are also being trained to answer 999 calls and are being trained to help with the handling of patient transport.
Other Emergency Ambulance Trusts around the country also utilise military ‘co-responders’ in a similar capacity.
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