Today (Friday 11 Feb) troops from The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards return from working in a number of hospitals across the East Midlands region,including the smallest county in the UK – Rutland! Troops have been working along side soldiers from 3rd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Black Watch), Royal Navy, and RAF Personnel in the role of “General duties”staff.
Whilst, as Sgt McCrindle remarked, “…The healthcare assistants, porters and nurses really do graft.” After suffering significant reductions to staffing levels due to COVID-19 absences, Defence stepped in at the behest of national government.
Packed into a busy new year preparing for ranges, and an imminent exercise in the US – the Regiment turned around troops to support this task – or Military Assistance to the Civil Authorities (MACA) - at short notice.
On arriving in the Midlands – the troops were quickly divided into teams of 4-10; JNCOs took responsibility and they quickly began lending a helping hand. Deploying their positive, diligent approach to boost morale amongst trusts.
The troops had a significant impact on the lived-experience of the patients and staff. They came across some incredible people:
“We’ve enjoyed chats with people who did National Service. I met a guy who was 101 years of age who was in the Korean War. It was great to have a conversation with him. It’s an experience which will stay with me for a long time to come.”–Sgt McCrindle
They joined service personnel already deployed as Defence Medics – who were in hospitals providing backfill for healthcare assistants and nurses from all 3 services. The work was straightforward but immensely valuable to the NHS. Especially early in the task they were struggling with staff shortages; and worked filling roles as porters, cleaning staff, and engaging with patients. For these non-SCOTS DG staff, the experience was immensely valuable, due to the constant observations, cannulations and healthcare assistance which simply isn’t routine in a military medical centre.
For the general duties troops, this naturally, sits outside of their normal duties Sgt Randles, SCOTS DG A Sqn Recce Sgt said:
“Our role here has been general duties. We’ve been assisting the healthcare assistants and the porters in a wide range of duties. And whilst it’s taken me outside my comfort zone it’s been really rewarding. We’ve done what we can to support and we know it’s been welcomed. We’ve seen their appreciation everyday, whether that be through a smile or a verbal thank you.”
Whilst military service is characterised by a worth while sense of duty, he found significant reward from being involved in this support:
“I’ve always appreciated the NHS. They looked after my grandparents and my son when he was born and this has given me the opportunity to see all the work that goes on to deliver the care they deliver every day. From the nurses to the porters who transport patients to the healthcare assistants.” Sgt McRindle echoed these thoughts: “I’ve been working on Esther Light Ward helping with general duties. Portering has been a big part of it. Anything to help the medical staff get on with their jobs. It’s been good. We’ve had good banter with the nurses and patients…”
The task was a unique look inside the NHS – and the troops enjoyed working for an organisation to which we all feel gratitude to. The troops naturally look forward to their return to their home unit, and the reward of a long weekend, during which time many will catch up with family and friends that they unexpectedly found themselves around 350 – 400 miles away from! Naturally the task was not without frustrations – working patterns have been different from normal, with soldiers working shifts, normally in the evenings.But SCOTS DG soldiers managed and tolerated any frictions of the task to leave NHS trusts grateful for their work. Michelle Rhodes, a chief nurse, wrote in a letter given to all troops in her trust:
“Your support during this difficult time has been essential in ensuring that the care we provide has not been compromised by the extra pressure we are facing.”
“Your presence has also been positive for both staff and patients. Over the past few weeks we have heard countless stories from both staff and patients about how much they enjoy having you around and how much they enjoy talking to you and hearing about your experience.”
Overall – troops have delivered vital, and diligent support on this task representing the regiment in a part of the country where we have little exposure. They look forward to returning to Regimental Duty and their main business. A Sqn imminently deploy on Sqn mounted ranges, on the JACKAL HMTV platform, an overseas training exercise to California; and soon after,mission-specific training for deployment to Mali in support of the UN.
Main Picure:Tpr McNair, Tpr O’Regan and Tpr Cant with staff from Queen’s Medical Centre Nottingham and a hamper which staff generously gifted to them at the end of their task.