By Isaac Seelochan
Army medics have been sent to help staff at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre as the number of coronavirus patients on its wards reaches record levels.
More than 440 people with Covid-19 were being treated at the QMC as of last Monday – shortly before the Government announced Army personnel were being made available to support stretched NHS staff at hospitals in London and the East Midlands.
Eighteen soldiers have since been deployed to the Queen’s Medical Centre, and are helping with face-to-face patient care and support work as staff face a peak in the number of Nottingham people needing treatment for the virus.
One of the Army medics inside the hospital, Private Ellis Nixon, told Notts TV the experience had been “eye-opening”, and praised the work of NHS staff she’d seen dealing with one of the most difficult periods of Nottingham’s response to the pandemic.
Pte Nixon has been working alongside NHS staff on ward C54 and is from 1 Armoured Medical Regiment, part of the Royal Army Medical Corps and based at Bhurtpore Barracks, Tidworth Camp, Wiltshire.
“It’s hard to some extent but – although you don’t necessarily forget what’s happening – you just carry on,” she said.
She added: “They’ve [NHS hospital staff] been phenomenal.”
More than 5,000 armed forces personnel have so far been deployed to help with testing, vaccines and clinical support as part of the national pandemic response.
Hundreds of those are now defence medics working at under-pressure hospitals in London and the East and West Midlands, including the QMC, after the Government announced last week it was stepping up forces support within the NHS.
Also working on ward C54 is Sergeant Michael Yaxley, of 1 Signal Regiment. His role involves general duties to help backfill non-patient roles to free up NHS personnel for front line work.
“It’s important to recognise that we’re here to support the staff of the NHS who are already doing a fantastic job during what are unprecedented times” he said.
“The NHS is in need and anything we can do as the British Army we’re happy to do. I’m doing the general duties so helping out with portering, logistics, talking to patients and helping them stay in touch with loved ones.”
He added: “Covid means people who would normally be at work can’t be here.
“There are shielding members of staff who have to isolate and then there are those who have symptoms or have been in contact with people who have Covid.
“Everyone is doing a fantastic job but they don’t have the number of people they would like to have which is why we’re here to offer support.”
Pte Nixon added: “The PPE is essential and we’re really hot on hygiene which is important to all of us because we want to keep ourselves and our families safe.”
She said: “I think it’s obvious from watching the news just how bad the situation is.
“The difference we can make is essential.
“We help with the daily cleaning of patients as well as feeding them and other care needs. We also do basic medical things that are within our scope of practice such as taking observations.”
The roles undertaken by military personnel are decided by hospitals according to where resources are needed most by the NHS.
A spokesperson for the NHS said: “The NHS is grateful to the 400 military personnel working in hospitals in the Midlands and London, alongside doctors, nurses and others who have returned to the NHS front line and tens of thousands of St John volunteers working across the country.
“The NHS has 50,000 more staff now working in the health service than a year ago all working round the clock to respond to unprecedented pressure on the NHS.”