Staff shortages lead to third Scottish health board calling for military assistance ahead of winter

A third Scottish health board has requested help from the armed forces as it faces staffing shortages ahead of winter.

NHS Grampian has made a formal request for military assistance as the health service faces growing pressure as a result of coronavirus and the backlog of care built up during the pandemic.

Last week, the British Army was called in to help NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders, with a total of 86 personnel deployed for a three-week period.

Soldiers are also helping the Scottish Ambulance Service vehicles under a separate arrangement.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman confirmed a request for military assistance had been made and the health board was awaiting a response.

Staffing pressures mean acute services – such as emergency departments, surgeries and diagnostics – in the NHS are operating at capacity.

Following the request for support last week, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the armed forces would provide additional capacity.

He said: “With increasing levels of social mixing and close social contact, it is expected that this winter Covid-19 will circulate alongside respiratory viruses, such as flu, adding to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS.

“This military support will allow both boards to support existing staff to reduce waiting times, enhance care and provide a better experience for our patients.

“As always I would like to thank all those involved in our healthcare systems for their continuing hard work and dedication over this particularly busy time.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the latest request showed the government’s support for the NHS was inadequate.

He said: “We are not even near the peak winter period yet we have three health boards requesting urgent military assistance.

“That is a direct result of Humza Yousaf’s delays and inaction.

“His flimsy NHS Recovery pamphlet and belated winter plan for our health service are simply not cutting it.

“More and more patients are paying the price for his lack of leadership.

“Support from our UK armed forces is hugely welcome and will hopefully ease the pressure on my colleagues on the front line.”

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