UK-Med response to Ebola in Sierra Leone
22 March 2017
In August 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Ebola epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern. The UK government’s response involved asking UK-Med, a medical NGO based within HCRI, to increase its recruitment of volunteers from across the NHS who could be deployed to UK Government-funded Ebola Treatment Centres (ETC) in Sierra Leone.
UK-Med was originally asked to recruit and train 80 volunteers; when the recruitment period closed it had received 1978 applications. The selection and screening process was detailed and thorough to ensure that only the most qualified and able volunteers were chosen. From the original 1978 applications, 153 volunteers were eventually deployed and 40 were held on standby. It has been calculated that as a result of this deployment, 56,600 cases of Ebola were averted in Sierra Leone, and there was a greater than 50% survival rate for those who received treatment.
This article, written by Professor Tony Redmond OBE and colleagues from HCRI and UK-Med, discusses the recruitment, training, deployment, and post-deployment of volunteers. It also reflects on the impact of the Ebola epidemic on the people of Sierra Leone, and the ways in which the lessons learnt from the deployment have influenced NHS and UK government responses to medical humanitarian emergencies.