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Army deployment in NHS hospitals exposes scale of staffing crisis

Soldiers help relieve twin pressures of COVID-related staff absence and soaring bed demand

Care must remain the preserve of registered nurses, insists RCN, as military personnel take on healthcare assistant duties

The deployment of soldiers to plug staffing gaps in hospitals is evidence of the perilous state of NHS staffing, a health union said.

Four hundred military personnel have been sent to hospitals in the Midlands and London to do the jobs of healthcare assistants (HCAs), porters and estates staff.

The extent of the trusts staffing problems are the result of soaring sickness absence and bed demand.

Sara Gorton of Unison

Virus is exacerbating a long-standing staffing

Care must remain the preserve of registered nurses, insists RCN, as military personnel take on healthcare assistant duties

Picture: iStock

The deployment of soldiers to plug staffing gaps in hospitals is evidence of the perilous state of NHS staffing, a health union said.

Four hundred military personnel have been sent to hospitals in the Midlands and London to do the jobs of healthcare assistants (HCAs), porters and estates staff.

The extent of the trusts’ staffing problems are the result of soaring sickness absence and bed demand.

Sara Gorton of Unison

Virus is exacerbating a long-standing staffing issue

Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton said the workforce appreciates the military’s support, but emphasised staff shortfalls pre-date the pandemic.

She said: ‘The NHS was struggling with huge gaps in staffing – including 14,000 healthcare assistants – long before COVID.

‘Now with so many staff off sick or self-isolating, hospitals across the UK are in a truly perilous position.

‘The virus has shone a spotlight on the pressures on staff and the urgent need to plug the gaps permanently. Giving staff a pay rise now could be just the start.’


Sharp rise in coronavirus sickness absence in the NHS

NHS England statistics show that on 6 January, 99,934 NHS staff were off sick and 49,704 of them either had coronavirus or were self-isolating.

This reveals just how steeply sickness absence rose in one month: on 6 December, the figure for virus-related absence stood at 27,593.


Nursing care must remain the preserve of nurses

RCN England director Mike Adams emphasised nursing care delivered by registered staff must be protected.

‘Many members tell us they welcome the additional support from the army, which may help to relieve some of the pressures they continue to face,’ he said.

‘It is vital duties that are the preserve of registered nursing staff continue to be delivered by these skilled professionals.’


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