A group of coach drivers whose work has dried up due to the coronavirus pandemic have been quickly retrained as ambulance drivers to support emergency medical efforts.
Twenty drivers from South West travel business Bakers Dolphin would normally be taking people on holiday this week – but are instead prepping for new roles on the supporting the aid effort.
With coronavirus cases continuing to rise sharply across the UK and many normal business behaviours on hold, firms and workers are being forced to adapt quickly to find employment and put resources to good use in supporting poorly and vulnerable people.
That has seen Bakers Dolphin and Bristol Ambulance Emergency Medical Services agree a deal to temporarily redeploy drivers into ambulance roles.
An initial wave of ten drivers now undergoing training will be followed by a second group of ten later this week, with the whole group then providing ambulance cover in four-day shifts.
Bakers Dolphin Managing Director Max Fletcher said: “With all international and UK travel in lockdown until at least the end of April we have 50 drivers with no work and a business with very little income.
“Bristol Ambulance need experienced drivers to support them as they expect demand to soar over the forthcoming weeks. We set up a straightforward agreement where we retain the drivers as employees and Bristol Ambulance have a contract with us to supply them.
“Like most other businesses we are looking at ways that we can get through this and to retain and support our employees so that they can come back to work with us when this is all over. It has been an incredibly stressful time with thousands of cancelations so far and our office staff are systematically working through dealing with alternative arrangements for customers.
“Our business is over 100 years old and helped out in wars in the past providing transport, so this is another chapter in our history.”
Bristol Ambulance EMS, based in St Philips, Bristol, has a fleet of 95 ambulances and will be supporting the NHS in the weeks to come as cases of Covid-19 rise in the Bristol area putting a strain on the health service.
Rob Johnson, Director of Operations at Bristol Ambulance EMS, said: “It was important for us to find local drivers that are available right away as our own dedicated team will not be able to work all the hours we are expecting to keep up with the demand for our services.
“We also have to ensure that our staff are able to self-isolate if a family member is ill without impacting our service delivery.
“We are delivering specialist training that the drivers need to have before they can start but their knowledge of the locality, excellent driving skills and customer service will all be used while they are with us.
“In order to minimise any risk to these drivers, our crews, or our patients, the Bakers Dolphin team will be utilised on our routine patient transport journeys and will not form part of our Accident and Emergency response.”