Reports say British troops will be brought in to drive ambulances and fill hospital roles as thousands of health workers plan to go on strike next month to demand a pay hike and better working conditions amid soaring inflation in the country.
British media reports said health and defense officials are drawing up a contingency strategy to invoke the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities protocol (MACA) to keep key services running as ambulance drivers and paramedics vote on whether to join a strike action.
That comes as Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are set to walk out on December 15 and 20, if their demand for a 19 percent pay rise is not met.
Moreover, unions, including Unite, which represents 100,000 NHS workers, are balloting members from across the health service.
While the nurses have promised to protect emergency and urgent care during the 12-hour strikes, the industrial action is still set to affect nearly half of hospitals, with 30,000 operations and hundreds of thousands of outpatient appointments being expected to be postponed.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay expressed his "deep" regret over walkouts among nursing staff, but insisted that their demands of 19 percent pay rise are simply "not affordable".
The Ministry of Defense is assessing ways to prevent the collapse of NHS, although no formal request for help has been made by the Department of Health and Social Care.
The planned nursing strikes will be the first countrywide action. It comes as transport and postal workers have already staged strikes in disputes over pay amid worsening cost-of-living crisis in the country.