Police officers will be trained to drive ambulances under plans to cope with coronavirus in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is assuming that, in addition to the expected increase in demand, significant numbers of staff may require periods of self-isolation after displaying symptoms of the virus.
It said: “Arrangements are well advanced for NIAS to provide vehicle familiarisation training, in the first instance, for officers from PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland).
“This training will enable them to drive emergency ambulances alongside a paramedic or emergency medical technician.
“Any request for this external support will only be made after all other internal escalation measures have been deployed and only after the completion of preparatory arrangements.
“These actions will ensure that the clinical expertise of our own frontline staff is optimised in the most effective manner.”
The service has also just commenced a pilot scheme with PSNI colleagues, involving a small number of staff from both organisations who already regularly train and deploy together in a range of challenging operational environments.
It said: “This pilot will see this joint team responding to a range of ambulance calls and will enable PSNI officers to become more familiar with wider ambulance service roles and working practices, and will prove beneficial if further support is requested from PSNI during the pandemic.
“This will also further embed the working relationships and professional skills of the staff from both organisations, enabling to better protect the community beyond the current pandemic.”