AMBULANCE staff will be given a helping hand from the military as they face a rise in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

From Monday, 80 members of the armed forces from across the South Central region will be temporarily released from military duties to work on the frontline 999 service.

This is a move set to bring “much-needed capacity” to an area under “enormous pressure”, says Southampton City Council leader Christopher Hammond.

Drawn up from the SCAS off-duty military co-responder team, they had emergency driving training on Tuesday to drive the ambulances at high-speed.

Councillor Christopher Hammond said: “The Ministry of Defence staff will bring much needed capacity and skills to an area that is currently under enormous pressure.

“This redeployment will be welcomed by all and help ensure that during the expected peak, there will be support available for those in need.”

The Ministry of Defence members will have personal protective equipment (PPE) training in preparation for the COVID-19 peak - expected to hit in two to three weeks.

The SCAS said they will have to wear this protective gear when attending certain patients and will take on ambulance roles full time.

He added: “It’s great that so many groups, organisations and people have come forward with offers of support.

“Thank you to everyone who is ensuring that we help tackle the spread of the coronavirus and look out for each other.”

An additional 20 to 30 ambulances will be available daily, while a small number of military personnel are set to help in the ambulance service’s emergency control room.

Major Emma Allen said: “We’ve been trained by South Central Ambulance Service to deal with the types of calls we’re going to be seeing.

"We really hope we can make a difference with the patients that we go to treat over the next few weeks.”

Major James Allen said: “Some mobilised individuals already have emergency response driving qualifications. Others will have licenses and qualifications upgraded so they can drive ambulances with trained paramedics."

Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS, said: “Around 80 military personnel from across the South Central region have been temporarily released from their military duties to help us full-time. This will help us when the expected peak increase in demand due to Covid-19 hits in around 2-3 weeks.”