The Army could be called up as staff shortages cause crisis for the NHS and public services

The army could be asked to step in to help alleviate staff shortage in the NHS and other important public services, Downing Street has said.

The Whitehall departments are preparing plans for possible requests for military assistance if absenteeism continues to rise.

So-called military aid to the civilian authorities (Maca) has been provided during the pandemic, including getting the army’s help set up vaccination centers and test sites.

Health Minister Sajid Javid said on Tuesday that the army “is already helping in vaccination centers across the country”.

While shortages are already putting pressure on hospitals, with several declaring critical incidents, there are also concerns about staff absenteeism in schools, the transport sector and supermarkets due to Omicron cases, which reached a record 218,724 on Tuesday.

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there was no “general requirement” for military aid, but added: “All departments have been asked to look at how they would mitigate large-scale absenteeism across their relevant workforce, up to 25 per cent. . “

Javid said the NHS received a “huge amount of support from volunteers and others as well”.

Business leaders have urged ministers to cut the self-isolation period for people testing positive for Covid from seven to five days to ease pressure on various sectors.

But the UK Health Safety Agency has warned that this would be counterproductive as more people would end up being infected, exacerbating the deficiency instead of alleviating them.

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