Soldiers drafted to drive ambulances as NHS comes under pressure from virus
PUBLISHED: 14:37 19 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:43 19 April 2020
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British Army soldiers have been drafted in to drive ambulances to ease the squeeze on the NHS squeeze during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sixty troops from the 1st The Queen’s Dragoons Guards have this week been trained to transfer critically ill patients between hospitals so more East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) staff can stay on the ‘front line’ of fighting the virus.
Marcus Bailey, EEAST’s chief operating officer, praised the soldiers, who are based at Swanton Moreley, near Dereham.
Mr Bailey said: “We are very grateful to the British Army for their support and look forward to working closely with them to keep our patients, staff, volunteers and the wider public safe during this pandemic.
“Covid-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for all of us and we truly appreciate the fantastic support we have received from the military, fire service, the public, businesses and our other partners.”
The troops all have their ‘C’ category driving license, a qualification required to take the wheel of the Jackal patrol vehicles they usually drive.
They have just done a three-day EEAST training course at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk to learn the ins and outs of ambulance driving, ready to take to the roads across the East of England.
Under the scheme, patients are always accompanied by a critical care team, including a doctor and nurse, and soldiers are not to attend ‘blue light’ emergencies or give medical treatment.
One of those taking part is Trooper Jake Tredgett, 21, who grew up in Norwich and studied Uniform Public Services at Norwich’s City College.
He said: “I joined the regiment straight out of training about a month ago, so I’m really pleased to be involved. I did feel a bit overwhelmed initially, but that passed once I was fully briefed and knew what was expected of me.
“I’m just keen to get on, get out there and do my bit. I grew up in Norwich and Norfolk is my home, so I’m really proud to play my part and help my local community.”
Another Trooper, Sam Jones, 26, said: “I’m just glad to be able to support the ambulance service. We’ve all been fully briefed and we’ve had the training. I’ve got no worries. We just want to be able to help now.”