Military medics to help in Shropshire hospitals due to staff shortages

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image captionThe military medics will fill in for healthcare assistants at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust

Military personnel are being drafted in to help support hospitals in Shropshire due to staff shortages connected with Covid-19.

The military medical teams are due to start this week at the Royal Shrewsbury and Telford's Princess Royal hospitals.

They will be filling in for healthcare assistants.

A spokesperson for The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) said sickness levels had risen, with many staff also shielding or self-isolating.

"Rates of positive Covid patients continue to rise in the community and this clearly has an impact on our staff," they said.

"We are working with colleagues from across the local NHS to ensure we have staff where they are needed."

Last week, bosses at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, in Gobowen, said it would be cancelling elective operations and redeploying staff trained in acute care to help in Shrewsbury and Telford.

Community health staff are also being brought in.

Analysis

By Joanne Gallacher, BBC Radio Shropshire political reporter

Healthcare assistants are the backbone of a hospital. Often they are the members of the team who hold a sick person's hand, change their clothes, take them to the toilet and keep them company on a lonely ward.

I am told the position is more important than ever as hospital visiting is suspended for all but the most seriously ill.

Elvina Ashton-King, the Unison secretary at SaTH, told me the healthcare roles were "integral" on the wards, saying they would not be able to function without them, so getting extra help through the military will provide a "boost".

She added even if they're answering phones or making cups of tea, it would free up doctors and nurses to carry out their work.

I have also been speaking to a number of NHS workers. One healthcare assistant said there were many shifts not being filled as staff sickness increased.

One nurse said: "It's been tough these last few weeks." Another added they sometimes had "no healthcares, we are never fully staffed". She added some temporary staff had been too scared to work on the Covid ward.

She said morale was low and the extra help from members of the armed forces could not come soon enough.

The rate of new Covid-19 infections in Shropshire stood at 423.7 per 100,000 people for the week up to 14 January, a slight drop from 459.6 in the previous seven days.

In Telford and Wrekin it dropped from 552.1 to 509.9 in the same period.

However, in the week up to 14 January, Shropshire, excluding Telford and Wrekin, had 1,369 confirmed Covid cases - a 344% increase on the number from four weeks earlier.

Prof David Loughton, chief executive of The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said last week military staff would be arriving to support hospitals in Birmingham and the Black Country, in a bid to take pressure off hospital staff.

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