Troops' help for NHS extends to Fife and Tayside

The armed forces are extending their efforts to help get essential medical staff to and from work as travel disruption from the snow continues in Scotland.

Troops are working in the NHS Fife and NHS Tayside regions from Friday evening onwards to transport vital staff to the hospitals where they work.

It comes after the Army was called in on Thursday night to take medics to and from Edinburgh's two biggest hospitals, following a request from NHS Lothian to the Scottish Government.

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Edinburgh-based 3 Rifles and Penicuik's 2 Scots deployed eight vehicles and 20 personnel to assist 200 critical care workers at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Western General.

The new support will be provided by up to 30 vehicles and 60 people from Royal Marine Condor in Arbroath, Scots Dragoon Guards from Leuchars and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, the Ministry of Defence said.

Their work will also be supplemented by police and fire service vehicles and other volunteers.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "The armed forces are assisting emergency services in ensuring essential NHS staff are able to get to work and carry out their work in local communities and are standing by to help the police and civil authorities across the UK following heavy snowfall.

"We are also aware of armed forces personnel volunteering in their own time with their own vehicles to help those in need."

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The heavy snowfall in recent days has made many routes in the areas impassable and much public transport has been cancelled.

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Emergency services across the country have given a superhuman effort over the past few days and I am particularly grateful to those selfless individuals across the country with 4×4 vehicles who have given up their time to get members of healthcare staff into work. They all deserve our deepest thanks.

"Health and social care staff have worked to ensure hospitals, surgeries and care homes keep operating throughout these difficult circumstances. The care they have delivered for patients has been nothing short of heroic."

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The extreme weather has seen health boards cancel non-essential operations and outpatient appointments on Friday, while NHS 24 has asked anyone who can help their staff get to work to contact them.

Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow saw tiles fly from its roof under pressure from the elements.

Meanwhile, communities are being asked to work together to clear up the snow as Scotland continues to recover from "the Beast from the East".

Wild weather is set to continue to cause some disruption, with yellow "be aware" warnings for snow and wind still in place across parts of the country over the weekend into Monday.

Many communities have already started to clear the snow and the Scottish Government is calling for volunteers to help where they can in clearing up local roads and pavements and checking on vulnerable people.

Rural roads and urban streets are maintained by local authorities but the extent of snow drifts mean areas remain difficult for local people, delivery drivers and pedestrians.

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Shoppers are also being asked to be "sensible" when buying food and supplies as stocks run low in some areas.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "If you have capacity to help neighbours, or are the owner of large vehicles that could assist the clearance work on your local road, I would encourage you to volunteer and look out for vulnerable people.

"Shop deliveries in some local areas may be affected in the short term, so I would also ask that people are patient and sensible when purchasing food or fuel, as the situation gradually returns to normal."

Hundreds of schools remained shut for a third day on Friday but some transport links began to recover as the amber weather warning expired.

Glasgow and Edinburgh airports were able to get a number of flights in and out after long delays and cancellations since Wednesday.

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Limited train and bus services were in operation and roads in the central belt, where hundreds had been stranded earlier in the week, were clearer.

There were still issues, however, with the M90 among roads hit by snowdrifts sweeping on to the carriageway prompting a clear-up by ploughs and gritters.

Further north, 20 to 30 vehicles needed to be freed after they became stuck in snow on the A92 near Inverbervie in Aberdeenshire.

Police Scotland Superintendent Helen Harrison said: "The snow is not due to stop and neither will we until we are confident that the risks associated with travelling in the poor conditions have reduced significantly.

"The snow has settled and is not expected to thaw, so extreme care will still need to be taken on the roads."