As the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities Operations in London wind down, Service Personnel and NHS staff reflect on the lessons learnt and the support and professionalism shown on both sides.
For the past three weeks, as part of the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) Operation, over 200 military personnel have been deployed the length and breadth of London to over 16 different hospitals in an effort to help relieve some of the pressure on the NHS Trusts from staff sickness and increased demand due to the pandemic.
This is my first time working with the NHS and after seeing them in action, I have been nothing but impressed. I’ve only ever seen them at work as a patient, but after seeing behind the scenes, my respect for the doctors and nurses has only increased. SAPPER JACK SMITH, 36 ENGINEER REGIMENT
Service Personnel from a number of Army units and RAF medics deployed from across the country at short notice, just after their Christmas holiday, to help out where they could in the hospital wards. For many of the Army personnel, this involved conducting general duties, which included portering of patients, helping out with mealtimes, cleaning equipment, ECGs, mental health assistance, PCR testing, as well as generally assisting nurses and reassuring patients when required. For the RAF medics, more in-depth aid was provided, helping out with observations, taking blood and putting in cannulas.
In the Emergency Department of University Hospital Lewisham, a small team of five Service Personnel from 36 Engineering Regiment and the RAF were deployed. When the team first arrived in the department, many of the staff were away due to sickness which was causing stress around the department with no downtime for the staff to rest. The small team helped relieve the pressure on the staff. For one small example of the help provided, Senior Aircraftman Bown said: “There was one lady who had dementia; she just needed to walk and talk to someone so we took shifts looking after her. The nurses were so grateful, they said they wouldn’t have been able to spend such time with her if we weren’t here.”
The majority of people only see what the NHS have been doing on the news. We can see the frontline here and see how hard they work; it’s just been amazing to do the little jobs to give them time to take a breath. LANCE CORPORAL JAMES SPENCER, 2 ROYAL ANGLIAN
In St George’s Hospital, Tooting, a much larger team was deployed. 40 Service Personnel were tasked with helping out in over 10 different wards for the operation. Although this may sound like a lot, the hospital itself has over 9500 staff so it is a drop in the ocean, albeit a much appreciated one. For Lance Corporal (LCpl) James Spencer, who was tasked with helping out on the Surgical Ward, the level of commitment shown by the nurses and doctors was astounding and being able to provide his support meant a lot.
In return, all the troops reported that the NHS staff were welcoming and grateful to have the support during this busy period. LCpl Tim Lynn said: “The NHS staff have been fabulous, they welcomed us with open arms and it takes a load off them and lets them get on with the important stuff. This has been a great perspective of what the NHS does in the frontline, which normally doesn’t reach the media.”
Across the capital, both Service Personnel and NHS staff have been grateful for the opportunity to work alongside each other and learn from their different roles. For the military, the dedication and work ethic of the NHS staff shone through and the nurses and doctors were equally impressed by the professionalism and hands-on approach of the soldiers tasked to their wards. For both parties, sad farewells to new colleagues have been said but all have been grateful for the help and lessons learnt as well as the lasting friendships formed.