COVID-19: Around 100 military medics to be sent to Northern Ireland to support hospital staff treating coronavirus patients

23 September 2021, 21:41 | Updated: 24 September 2021, 06:46

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has granted a request to send around 100 military medics to Northern Ireland to support hospitals in need of help to deal with the number of coronavirus patients, Sky News has learnt.

Service personnel are set to be deployed in the next few days, it is understood.

They are expected to support Belfast City Hospital and Ulster Hospital in Dundonald. A third hospital may also receive assistance.

A defence source said the authorisation to deploy the medics had been granted from Friday.

A second source said it was thought the personnel would arrive in Northern Ireland from 29 September and start work on 4 October.

The army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have provided thousands of personnel to help with the government's response to the COVID pandemic across the UK since the crisis began.

But the number of so-called MACA (military assistance to the civil authority) operations had dropped significantly in recent months.

However, on Tuesday, the MoD said 225 Armed Forces personnel would deploy to support the Scottish Ambulance Service in the fight against COVID-19 from Saturday.

Some 114 personnel will boost the number of ambulance drivers, and a further 111 personnel will operate Mobile Testing Units in Scotland.

Last week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted the nation's ambulance service was facing "acute pressure" as she apologised "unreservedly" for long waiting times.

Ms Sturgeon was questioned by parliament about the death of Gerald Brown, a 65-year-old from Glasgow, who reportedly died after waiting 40 hours for an ambulance.

"Our ambulance service is working under acute pressure right now, largely due to COVID," Ms Sturgeon told MSPs in Holyrood last Thursday, as she offered her condolences to Mr Brown's family.

"I want to take the opportunity to thank the paramedics and ambulance technicians for the work they're doing in such difficult circumstances.

"While they are responding heroically to these challenges, I recognise that some people are not getting the standard of service that they should be getting, or indeed the service the Scottish Ambulance Service wants to deliver.

"That is not acceptable, and I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has suffered or who is suffering from unacceptably long waits."