Around 200 Armed Forces staff are being deployed to help the NHS in London amid critical shortages of healthcare workers.
The move will see military and general duty personnel helping with patient care and, respectively, administrative tasks.
The Royal College of Nursing has said the deployment means the government can no longer deny there is a “staffing crisis” within the NHS.
It comes as new figures show London has replaced the North West of England in being the country’s Covid epicentre, with higher proportions of older people being admitted to hospitals.
Patricia Marquis, director for England at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The prime minister and others can no longer be dismissive of questions about the ability of NHS staff to deliver safe care.
“Once the military has been brought in, where does the government turn next in a bid to ‘ride out’ the wave rather than deal with it?”
And Dr Chaand Nagpaul said “we have never known this level of staff absence before” and that the pressure facing the health service and GPs “is not normal”.
But minister insist there is ‘no need’ for further restrictions based on the Covid pandemic situation, according to Sky News.
Tory says she doesn’t know how many EU citizens left NHS after Brexit
Meanwhile, a Tory health minister has claimed she does not know how many EU citizens have left the NHS because of Brexit – but insisted the vacancies they left behind have been “more than filled”.
Asked whether Britain has more or less NHS staff because of Brexit, Gillian Keegan said: “We have more NHS staff in general and they’ve come from all over. Actually, the last ones that came to my own hospital were from the Philippines. They come from all over.”
She then boasted Britain has “open visas” for “people to come from many parts of the world, including from Europe.”
Reid presented figures from two years ago, according to which 22,000 EU nationals have left the NHS since the EU referendum in 2016. “That was two years ago, so I have no idea what the figures are now but you are saying every single one of those posts has been filled by somebody else,” she said.
“What we have is, in general, net figures, 10,000 more nurses and 5,000 more doctors, so they’ve more than been filled, they’ve been backfilled as well,” Keegan insisted.
As of Thursday, 17 hospital trusts in England have declared critical incidents, indicating priority services may not be carried out safely.
And MPs across parties warned 5.8 million people are waiting for treatment, with Tory MP Jeremy Hunt telling the current Conservative government to “wake up to the scale of the staffing crisis facing the NHS”.