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Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

UK-Med

HCRI has a formal agreement with the charity UK-Med to collaborate in the delivery of workshops, seminars and training and the sharing of best practice, knowledge and opportunities.

UK-Med is a non-governmental organisation that hosts the UK International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR) and recruits and trains health care workers to deploy to sudden onset disasters overseas.

The charity has become the UK’s deployment lead to global humanitarian crises, with an £8m government grant. Funding for the new initiative is being provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) to carry out support, education and training for health care workers on the UK International Emergency Trauma Register and the new UK International Emergency Medical Register.

Global deployment situations

Philippines - response to Typhoon Haiyan

On the 8th of November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda) devastated large areas of the Philippines.

Haiyan was rated as a Category 5 disaster by the United Nations, and while official estimates of the damage it caused vary, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Philippines estimates (produced on the 3rd December 2013) suggested that 11,236,014 people were affected, with 5,680 people dead and 26,000 injured.

On the 10th of November 2013, following the invitation for international assistance by the Philippines Department of Health, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) activated the deployment of a UK International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR) team. This team was comprised of two PHE specialists, deployed immediately to support the World Health Organization (WHO), followed by a 12 strong medical/surgical team led by Professor Anthony Redmond of HCRI.

The UKIETR team

The team contained a range of expert volunteers with experience in delivering emergency healthcare in disaster environments, and was deployed from the UK on Wednesday 13th November 2013. The team operated in collaboration with Save the Children/Merlin and the DFID, and was composed of:

  • 3 emergency physicians
  • 2 orthopaedic surgeons
  • 1 plastic surgeon
  • 2 accident and emergency nurses
  • 1 theatre nurse
  • 2 anaesthetists
  • 1 specialist physiotherapist

Urgent health needs

A number of urgent health needs were targeted:

  1. Two public health specialists (Dr. Nick Gent and Dr. Tim Brooks of Public Health England) from the UKIETR were embedded within the WHO team in the Philippines where they established disease surveillance and supported the local teams.
  2. Surgical needs in Tacloban were met through half the UKIETR team strengthening the Australian Medical Team (AUSMAT) team.
  3. An integrated humanitarian package of health, food, shelter and water and ongoing needs assessment was delivered in collaboration with the Royal Navy aboard HMS Daring, targeting the islands off Northern Cebu.

Additional support

Following a further request from WHO to continue needs assessment and information gathering on island a team of 6 was deployed from the UK on 23rd November 2013 to join HMS Illustrious who took over from HMS Daring.

Gaza - ongoing conflict

In August 2014, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) activated the deployment of a UK International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR) team to Gaza.

The deployment was in response to the increasing number of casualties and worsening medical situation in Gaza, as a result of the ongoing conflict in the region.

12 professionals, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and occupational nurses, are treating Palestinians injured during the recent conflict; the total number of which is thought to be approximately 11,000.

The deployment was organised with training and logistical support provided by Handicap International and Save the Children and the deployment is lead by Peter Skelton, rehabilitation project manager of Handicap International.

The team will assist local staff with specialised training and equipment in dealing with injuries include amputations, spinal cord injuries and fractures.

Find out more

West Africa - tackling Ebola

UK-Med is coordinating volunteers from the NHS willing to support the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) response in West Africa through its International Emergency Medical Register.

The Department for International Development (DfID) is working British military and humanitarian experts to set up an EVD treatment centre in Kerrytown, Sierra Leone. The 62 bed facility will be purpose built with military engineer input and military clinical staff.

The UK Government is also currently working with Save the Children to design a long term plan to manage and operate the facility after it has been fully set up. The treatment centre will comprise of a 12 bed unit for healthcare workers, including any local or international medical volunteers and a 50 bed unit for treating additional patients with the disease. This centre will be staffed by international health workers and staff from Sierra Leone, and will provide treatment to both adult and paediatric victims of the disease.

The UK has been at the forefront of responding to the epidemic. It is acknowledged that the key to combating this epidemic is supporting in-country front line health workers and underpinning a fractured health system in Sierra Leone. The UK's aim is to provide the very best life-saving health service under the most challenging conditions.

Dr Amy Hughes: Why I'm going to Africa to tackle Ebola

Amy Hughes, an NHS doctor, and a Clinical Academic Lecturer in Emergency Response here at the HCRI, explains why she has volunteered to be in the front-line fight against the devastating disease.

On 24 September 2014, it was announced that 400 staff working in the NHS have answered an appeal to travel to Sierra Leone to fight Ebola. I am one of them.

This outbreak, which started last December, has already claimed more than 2,600 lives. On Tuesday the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the number of cases could reach hundreds of thousands by January. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US claim that, at worst, Ebola could become endemic in Africa, with 1.4 million cases by the start of 2015.

The urgency of the situation is why health professionals across the world are coming together to support communities in West Africa that are in desperate need of their knowledge and expertise. Britain is just a part of the international response to Ebola, but as a country we can be so proud of those who have stepped forward.

The UK appeal is being coordinated by Save the Children, the Departments for Health and International Development, and the charity UK-Med, which hosts the UK International Emergency Medical Response Register through which NHS workers are applying to volunteer. British Armed Forces are already in the country constructing an Ebola treatment unit. Those who have come forward are of all ages and skills: some will have been deployed abroad before; for many it will be the first time.

I am 34 and an emergency medical clinician. I work part-time at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and as a clinical lecturer in emergency response at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. I’ve been involved with humanitarian work for the past six years. I love the challenge it presents and the privilege of engaging with different communities.

When you decide to work in a disaster area it is hard on your loved ones. My mother and father are retired, and it is difficult for them, even if they understand my passion for such work. That said, if my personal situation changed and I was married or had children, things might be different.

We will be deployed over the coming months after extensive training in the UK and then in Sierra Leone when we arrive. Each volunteer will get a full personal protection suit: zipped up hood, goggles or face shield, mask, double gloves, an apron and covering for our boots. It will be very hot, and very demanding in the field.

Of course we will be apprehensive, and it is always a shock when you are first confronted with the devastation. The spread of the virus has been catastrophic and this week WHO revised its estimated mortality rate for Ebola from 50 per cent to 70 per cent – adding further to the fear that already grips communities where outbreaks occur.

We will be subjected to sights unlike anything we’ve encountered back home. Last year, I worked for two weeks in the Philippines as part of the relief effort following Typhoon Haiyan. Prior to that, I spent seven months in Sri Lanka working with Médecins Sans Frontières. I have learnt from those deployments how to develop a level of resilience to help manage things.

When I was in Sri Lanka I wrote a lot of emails to myself about my experiences. Writing, I found, is wonderfully cathartic. I haven’t read them back but I might have a look before I go to West Africa to remind myself of the challenges I may be facing.

The other way of coping is to talk to those who have experienced the situation. One of the biggest challenges volunteers encounter is returning home and trying to explain to family and friends what they have seen and done. It will be vital to ensure there is effective debriefing for returning team members.

In West Africa we will be on the front line, but well-rehearsed in how to reduce the risk of transmission with strict clinical protocols in place. It is all about understanding the Ebola virus, the community infrastructure and the culture and context in which we are working and collaborating with local and international teams already on the ground.

There is a real passion among NHS staff to make a contribution. Those that aren’t able to deploy abroad are covering shifts at home.

I take heart from the selflessness of William Pooley, the British nurse who recovered from Ebola, and who this week flew to the US to give blood to help save another doctor’s life. Both of them contracted the disease while working in Sierra Leone. It is hoped the antibodies in Mr Pooley’s blood will help the American victim fight off the virus.

It is that kind of spirit that is uniting the international community in an effort to halt the spread of this terrible disease in West Africa. As volunteers, we will be doing everything we can to help.

Reflections of UK medical deployees

Members of the medical teams deployed to the Philippines in response to Typhoon Haiyan reflect on their experiences as part of their efforts to deliver medical aid and treat those in need.

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