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‘Under pressure like never before’: Northern Ireland calls on 100 army medics

Request comes after two trusts issued appeals for exhausted nurses to take on extra shifts

Health minister’s request comes days after two trusts issued urgent appeals for exhausted nurses to take on extra shifts

Military personnel are set to support the UK health service again as exhausted nurses report winter-style pressures in early autumn.

The Northern Ireland Department of Health (NIDH) made the request for the deployment of up to 100 armed services medics to its hospitals saying staff were ‘under pressure like never before’.

Earlier this year, 400 soldiers were brought in to plug staffing gaps, including healthcare assistant roles, in England amid soaring staff sickness rates and demand for patient beds.

The (NIDH) has yet to release any details on the role military staff will play there, but it is hoped they will

Health minister’s request comes days after two trusts issued urgent appeals for exhausted nurses to take on extra shifts

The Northern Ireland Department of Health has requested the deployment of up to 100 armed services medics to its hospitals
Picture: John Houlihan

Military personnel are set to support the UK health service again as exhausted nurses report winter-style pressures in early autumn.

The Northern Ireland Department of Health (NIDH) made the request for the deployment of up to 100 armed services medics to its hospitals saying staff were ‘under pressure like never before’.

Earlier this year, 400 soldiers were brought in to plug staffing gaps, including healthcare assistant roles, in England amid soaring staff sickness rates and demand for patient beds.

The (NIDH) has yet to release any details on the role military staff will play there, but it is hoped they will support Belfast City Hospital and Ulster Hospital from October.

Pressure cooker environment across health and social care

RCN Northern Ireland associate director Dolores McCormick said nurses were contacting them on a daily basis ‘exhausted, demoralised and fearful about what the next few months will hold’.

‘There’s been no let up for over a year and we’re finding ourselves facing pressure in September, which would not normally happen until the height of winter,’ she said.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann, who made the request to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), said: ‘The current situation is different to the pressures in the earlier stages of the pandemic. We have the ongoing and serious COVID threat combined with a growing pressure cooker environment right across health and social care.

Increase in emergency department admissions in tandem with COVID-19 patients

‘Staff are exhausted, having been facing the pandemic and its repercussions day in, day out, month in, month out, for the best part of two years.’

Mr Swann’s request comes days after two trusts in Northern Ireland issued urgent appeals calling for nurses to take on extra shifts as emergency department admissions increased in tandem with COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, registered nursing vacancies have increased from 445 posts in 2012 to 2,114 in 2019, according to a 2020 Northern Ireland Audit Office report.

An MoD spokesperson said: ‘The MoD has received a request to support the NIDH under the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities process. We are working hard to identify where we can most effectively assist other government departments and civil authorities.’


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