4,000 troops on standby to help NHS cope with Covid over winter as Chancellor pledges £6bn to help clear virus backlog

FOUR thousand troops are on standby to help the NHS cope with the winter Covid crisis, the Defence Secretary revealed.

It comes as the Chancellor pledges a £6 billion cash injection to clear the hospital backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last night Ben Wallace said that the troops are "ready to help" and carry out tasks including administering jabs, driving ambulances and providing support to hospitals.

"We’ve got plenty [of armed forces personnel available] and in winter we put on standby thousands of military personnel, mainly because of our experience of floods and things," Mr Wallace said, speaking in Scotland.

"We have already put on standby something like 4,000-plus people, for the whole of the United Kingdom."

Scientists are said to be increasingly concerned over the surge in new coronavirus infections as well as what effect the flu and other seasonal pressures could have on the already overstretched hospital.

The NHS is currently battling with a huge backlog of Brits who are waiting for hospital treatment.

As of September, that number was at an astonishing 5.7million – the highest number since records began in 2007.

The waiting list for patients is rising by about 100,000 a month as more people who did not seek or did not have access to a GP over the past year are referred to hospitals.

Senior doctors have warned that the surge in Covid infections could threaten to derail the efforts to tackle the backlog.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor is set to announce an extra £6 billion in funding for the NHS in his budget this week.

The cash injection will include £2.3 billion to set up a network of more than 100 community diagnostic centres that will provide Brits with access to MRI, CT and ultrasound scans.

£1.5 billion will also go to the creation of new surgical hubs to cut down the waiting times for elective operations.

Rishi Sunak told the Daily Express that it will mean most of the backlog will be cleared by the next election.


"The NHS has delivered truly world-class care through the last 18 months and I applaud the heroic health care professionals who have been at the forefront of the crisis," he said.

“As we bounce back from the pandemic it’s vital we cut waiting lists and ensure those who need help and treatment get it as soon as possible.

“This significant investment will be a major boost for millions of people waiting for checks and treatment as a result of the pandemic ‑ and is expected to help clear most backlogs for diagnostic tests and scans by the end of the parliament.

“We’re also pumping more than £2billion into digital technology to free up more time for our dedicated NHS staff so they can concentrate on giving the world-leading care they are renowned for.”

It comes after the UK's most senior gynaecologist warned that a fresh wave of Covid has plunged NHS maternity wards to near "breaking point".

Dr Edward Morris said that the NHS could soon be unable to deliver "the care it needs to" for women if cases continue to skyrocket.

He told The Guardian that he had become increasingly concerned about how NHS staff were facing "immense pressures" with the rising number of cases.

"The Covid-19 pandemic is far from over and we’re becoming increasingly concerned about the immense pressures facing our maternity staff this winter if the situation continues as it is," Dr Morris said.

“We’re also aware of the many women and girls who are suffering with gynaecological conditions that are currently on extensive waiting lists with no end in sight.

"With the number of Covid-19 cases rising once more, the NHS could soon be in a situation where it is unable to deliver the care it needs to or deal with the huge backlog that has already built up.”

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