Twenty-three drivers from the military have been supporting the East of England Ambulance Service which serves Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

They have been giving support to non-emergency services since Friday August 13, a move the union Unison has branded as "a sticking plaster".

Unison's Eastern regional secretary Tim Roberts said: “The East of England Ambulance Service was underfunded and overstretched even before the pandemic.

"With the huge extra pressures from Covid and its knock-on effect on staffing, it’s little wonder the trust has had to turn to the military for help.

“But drafting in the army to replace highly trained ambulance staff is a crude sticking plaster to patch up much bigger problems.

"Adequate long-term government funding and measures to retain ambulance staff, including better pay, adequate breaks and finishing on time, are urgently needed rather than a succession of quick fixes.”

An East of England Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We are using tried and tested methods to help alleviate pressures on services, which has recently included the addition of a small number of military personnel who are supporting our non-emergency patient services.

“If you are concerned about your health but it is not an emergency, please use 111 online in the first instance and you will be directed to the best service to meet your needs.”

Tom Abell was appointed the new chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust NHS Trust earlier this year.