British military medics sent to tend Northern Ireland's Covid patients

Belfast government issued request to MoD as health system comes under 'severe strain'

British military medics have been called out to Northern Ireland to help the nation's hospitals deal with increasing numbers of coronavirus patients.

The Ministry of Defence accepted a request for deployment from the Belfast government under the Military aid to the civil authorities' protocol.

Under the arrangement, British armed forces can assist the UK's devolved nations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to deal with pandemic-related situations, but only as a last resort.

About 100 medical personnel will support staff at Belfast City Hospital and Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, while a third hospital might also be involved.

Northern Ireland's emergency departments have come under "severe strain" in recent weeks, with some patients reportedly forced to wait up to 12 hours for a bed.

The Department of Health in Belfast this month requested help from London to deal with the situation.

Northern Ireland's Minister of Health Robin Swann described the service as “under pressure as never before” and said staff were “exhausted”.

“We have the ongoing and serious Covid threat combined with a growing pressure-cooker environment right across health and social care,” he said.

“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."

It comes after hundreds of military personnel were sent to Scotland to help its ambulance service deal with a similar problems.

The MoD provided 114 people to assist ambulance drivers and 111 personnel to operate Mobile Testing Units for coronavirus.

The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, described the situation as unacceptable and said the ambulance delays had likely led to the death of at least one man.

Gerald Brown, 65, from Glasgow, died after reportedly waiting up to 40 hours for an ambulance. An official investigation into the death has been launched.

Updated: September 24th 2021, 1:23 PM