There are only 40 paramedics in the armed forces trained to the standards required by the NHS, it has been revealed.
The figure, uncovered by Liberal Democrats through a parliamentary question, comes as 600 armed forces personnel prepare for deployment to fill gaps in the ambulance service in the upcoming strikes.
The military has been asked to provide drivers for ambulances to ease pressure on the service during the industrial action, and troops will not be taking part in clinical work.
But Lib Dem health spokesperson Daisy Cooper, who obtained the figures, said it revealed the “patchwork” approach the government was taking in response to the wave of strikes affecting the health service.
It was revealed on Monday that troops driving ambulances are not authorised to break traffic rules while driving on “blue-light” journeys, and so will not be able to jump red lights or break the speed limit to get to incidents faster. Wherever possible, they will be confined to non-urgent trips.
In response to Ms Cooper’s question about the number of armed forces medics available for duties, defence minister Andrew Murrison said “The Armed Forces have 107 paramedics, of which 40 are confirmed as meeting the qualification requirements set out by the Health and Care Professions Council.”
Ms Cooper said: “This shocking revelation lays bare the chaos our health services face.The government has got to sort this out now before people’s lives are put at risk.
“Their patchwork plan to keep ambulance services running has filled the public with anxiety about the days to come.
“Emergency health services have already been starved of funding by this government leading to dangerously high waiting times, and will now be plunged into even more chaos if these strikes go ahead.
“Ministers need to get round the table and ensure these strikes are called off. Their grandstanding against nurses and paramedics only puts the public at risk.”
Ambulance unions Unison, GMB and Unite have agreed ambulance staff including paramedics, control room staff and support workers will walk out on 21 December in a dispute over pay.
Another strike will happen on 28 December involving GMB members, who make up around half of the total number of ambulance staff.
Life-threatening emergency call outs will still be responded to.