Coronavirus UK: St John ambulance needed by NHS to 'beat this virus'

24 March 2020, 08:02

The charity said they stand ready to help
The charity said they stand ready to help. Picture: St John Ambulance
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

St John Ambulance, the nation's auxiliary ambulance service is preparing to deploy over 500 staff a day to assist the NHS response to Covid-19.

An email to members of the charity organisation seen by the Express newspaper the director of Ambulance and Community Response Craig Harman estimated St John would need over 500 people a day to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic at its peak.

In the email, Mr Harman wrote: “Our response will be a marathon, not a sprint. At the peak, we are going to need over 500 people every day across the country.”

He explained: “The COVID-19 pandemic is going to be with us for at least the next 12 weeks and it is anticipated that the peak is still some weeks away.

“This means deploying our people at the right time is key.”

In a press release, Mr Harman said: “As a charity, with around 8,500 available health volunteers, and England’s auxiliary ambulance service, St John stands ready to offer extra, immediate support to the NHS and the public, as required.”

“We are working closely with NHS England and the National Ambulance Strategic Advisor on how we can support the health service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our response will build on the brilliant work St John people have been doing to support our NHS and communities during the winter months.

“We have already ramped up that work to respond to immediate needs and there is more to come but our response will need to be a marathon not a sprint. This week, as we prepare for that, I have seen our whole charity come together as one and it has been humbling.

“The need for our work has never been more relevant or urgent than now, but we are ready.”

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The matter was even raised in the Commons by Peter Aldous MP who said the charity's workers should be designated "key workers" during the Covid-19 crisis, and access to paid leave and 'emergency volunteer certificates' under the emergency coronavirus legislation.

Mr Aldous said the NHS needed "all the help and support possible from the voluntary sector" in order to "beat this virus."

Read more: Who is a key worker and what children are classed as vulnerable in UK school closures?

The Government had already put out a call for retired NHS staff to re-join the "NHS army" and re-register to help support the healthcare response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces, and is it safe to get overseas post?

The NHS has also turned to private healthcare providers NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: "NHS staff are working round the clock gearing up to deal with this unprecedented global health threat.

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"As well as ramping up treatment capacity across all NHS hospitals, we're getting on with other options too, including new facilities as well as a landmark deal with private hospitals which has put 20,000 staff, 8,000 beds and 1,200 ventilators at our disposal.

"But it remains absolutely vital that this huge mobilisation by the NHS is matched by action from the public, which means following medical advice to the letter - please stay at home to save lives."

Read more: Coronavirus and pregnant women: What is the official government advice?

With concerns about hospitals being overwhelmed a convention centre with a near-70,000 visitor capacity could be used as a field hospital to support the NHS amid the developing coronavirus outbreak.

Military planners from the Ministry of Defence visited the ExCeL London centre in east London's Docklands on Sunday to see how the site could be used by the NHS in the pandemic.

Several options for the venue are being considered, including a field hospital.

Read more: Coronavirus - Who should self-isolate and for how long?

A department spokesman said: "To assist NHS England to prepare for a number of scenarios as the coronavirus outbreak unfolds, a team of military planners visited the ExCel centre in London to determine how the centre might benefit the NHS response to the outbreak."

In the UK 6,650 people have been confirmed as testing positive for the virus, as of 9am on March 23.

This is up 967 on the equivalent figure 24 hours earlier, which is the second biggest day-on-day increase in the volume of cases since the outbreak began.

It is also a day-on-day rise of 17%.

335 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in the UK, as of 9am on March 23.

Some 303 deaths have been recorded in England, 16 in Wales, 14 in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland.