THE Royal Oldham Hospital is bracing itself to accept help from the Armed Forces as Covid pressures threaten to cripple services.

In a briefing released by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership it was revealed support from the military had been requested amid a staff crisis that has seen 10 to 15 per cent of the workforce across the region’s trusts absent due to Covid-19.

It comes after 200 Armed Forces personnel were deployed to London hospitals last week in a bid to plug staff shortages as the Omicron variant surged through the capital.

Soldiers are set to assist Greater Manchester hospitals with discharge support planning as bed occupancy rates hit 90 per cent.

Last week, The Royal Oldham Hospital was forced to pause non-urgent surgery and appointments due to the rising impact of coronavirus.

It was also announced that around 150 army personnel were set to partner with North West Ambulance Service to respond to less urgent patients in a bid to combat long wait times.

The personnel will continue to work for the service for several weeks, much like last winter when the military was deployed to more than 4,600 non-life-threatening 999 incidents.

Ged Blezard, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) operations director said: “It is no secret that the ambulance service, along with the NHS as a whole, has been under extreme pressure for several months.

“Now we are also experiencing high numbers of staff absences due to confirmed Covid-19 cases and isolation, with around 25 per cent of the workforce currently affected.”

Last month, the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust (NCA), which runs the Royal Oldham Hospital, announced it was making freeing up beds an ‘urgent priority’ and expanding its use of virtual wards. 

In a statement, released after a trust board meeting on December 20, the NCA said virtual care for all patients would be implemented where possible to support the ‘freeing up of beds’, ‘flow across the hospital sites’ and ‘rapid discharge’.

It is hoped that keeping Covid patients out of hospital will leave beds free for patients otherwise waiting in ambulances and on trolleys in A&E.