The soldiers, who are either infantry or attached Royal Logistic Corps troops, specialise in stores and accounting and are assisting the main pharmacy at Borders General Hospital to get doses of the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines out to the dozens of vaccine centres and GP surgeries around the rural south-east part of Scotland.
They are the only military team in Scotland who are doing this job, in support of NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government’s operations to tackle the COVID pandemic.
The troops from the 3rd Battalion The Rifles (3 RIFLES) have completed many tours of Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade, but they are finding that the skills that they have honed on military operations have come in very useful for this type of work.
With years of experience in looking after ammunition stores in his job as an infantry soldier, Colour Serjeant Lee McIntosh has spent over six weeks away from this base at Dreghorn Barracks, bolstering staff numbers at the pharmacy and dealing with hundreds of orders for the vaccines every week.
His job, and that of his colleagues, is to process the orders and to get the correct number of doses out to the correct locations, in time to fulfil all the appointments which have been booked by the NHS.
“We come in first thing and check our emails for requests coming in for the following day for the whole region,” said Lee. “We print them all off, check quantities and then we mover them to where they are needed, 24 hours in advance.”
NHS Pharmacy technician, Lorna Wallace said of her erstwhile colleagues in green, “I’ve never worked with anyone from the military before, so it has been really good to get their perspective on organising things. They have been a great help. You can see the similarities between running a hospital pharmacy and how they run things in the Army. This is not something we have ever done before, and it was good to have them come in to support us and get things running smoothly.”
Lee said,” We are massively proud of what we are doing here. We are an English regiment based in Scotland and we are all working together to help fight the pandemic. It is all good.”
Since the start of the pandemic a year ago, the Armed Forces in Scotland have provided planning and liaison capability to the Scottish Government and, have set up and run Mobile Testing units, have constructed and run both vaccination and asymptomatic testing centres, have provided helicopter medical evacuation capability to rural and island communities and have deployed medics to administer vaccination doses, alongside their NHS colleagues.