More armed forces personnel are set to be drafted in to help the Welsh Ambulance Service, as the latest covid wave continues to wreak havoc on NHS staff levels.

Today, the service revealed that 346 frontline staff are currently absent due to covid.

This includes confirmed positive cases, and those currently in isolation due to exposure, and represents around 10 per cent of the front line workforce for the ambulance service in Wales.

A leading figure for the service today confirmed that they are experiencing “higher than normal” levels of staff sickness.

However, it was stressed that covid related illness within the ambulance service is mirroring that which has been seen in the community – which has seen a sharp rise since the emergence of the omicron variant of the potentially deadly virus.

And, as part of efforts to combat this, another 150 armed forces members are set to be drafted in from January until the end of March.

This will bring the total number of soldiers, sailors and aircrew involved in ambulance operations to 250, since being re-enlisted late last year.

In a bid to reduce pressures on the system, members of the public are once again being encouraged to only dial 999 for serious and life-threatening situations.

Otherwise, people are being asked to make use of the 111 system, as well as GP surgeries, pharmacies, and minor injury units.

What has been said about the levels of staff sickness?

Lee Brooks, director of operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Our people have been working at the sharp end of a global pandemic, a result of which – and as you might expect – we are experiencing higher than normal sickness absence levels.

“Our rates of absence associated with Covid tend to mirror what we see in the community, so at the moment the numbers of staff unable to attend work has been steadily increasing.

“The Trust has re-enlisted the military to bolster our capacity, a result of which we’ve been able to put more ambulances on duty so we can get to more patients, more quickly, while the extreme pressures continue.

“More than 100 soldiers, sailors and aircrew have been supporting us since October, and from this month, a further 150 will join us until the end of March, totalling 250 Armed Forces personnel.

“Staff and volunteers in every corner of Wales and in every part of the service continue to work tremendously hard in tough circumstances, and we are extremely proud of them.

“The public can help by only calling 999 for serious or life-threatening emergencies – otherwise the NHS 111 Wales symptom checkers will be your first port of call for help and advice, as well as your GP, pharmacy or nearest Minor Injuries Unit.”