The Welsh ambulance service has asked for help from the armed forces, explaining that it faces “significant and sustained pressure” because of Covid-19, the threat of a flu outbreak and other winter challenges.
Soldiers are expected to be used to drive ambulances and decontaminate vehicles in Wales as they have done twice since the pandemic began.
The appeal follows the UK government giving the go-ahead for 225 military personnel to help the Scottish ambulance service. The Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday it will provide 114 people as drivers and a further 111 personnel who will operate mobile testing units.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said: “Our armed forces are once again stepping up, demonstrating their versatility as we support the Covid-19 response across the UK. We are proud to work alongside the dedicated men and women at the Scottish ambulance service.”
The chief executive of the Welsh ambulance service NHS trust, Jason Killens, said: “Covid-19 has presented a challenge like no other, but the last couple of months in particular have meant significant and sustained pressures on our ambulance service.
“The trust is starting to return to some of the arrangements we had in place at the height of the pandemic to better manage the increase in Covid-19-related activity that we’re feeling the impact of once again.
“As part of this, we’re seeking to re-enlist the military, who did a superb job of assisting us on two occasions previously last year.
“Winter is our busiest time, and this will enable us to get a head start on what we foresee will be a tough period, especially when you couple Covid-19 demand with seasonal flu and our usual winter pressures. More than 200 British army soldiers have already assisted the trust’s Covid-19 effort by driving and decontaminating ambulance vehicles.
A spokesperson for Joint Military Command Wales said: “We will work with the Welsh government and the Welsh ambulance services NHS trust to understand their requirements and offer assistance where appropriate.”
Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Conservative group in the Senedd, said the ambulance service in Wales was in crisis and stretched “ridiculously thin.” He added: “It is a shame this Labour-led Welsh government didn’t get the ball rolling sooner.”