It is a call that could come from any international conflict zone involving British troops and one which would cause a huge medical operation comprising of hundreds of staff and specialist equipment being transported from its Yorkshire base within a matter of days.
The British Army’s 34 Field Hospital based in Strensall near York has just been approved, or “validated”, as the Army’s ‘Vanguard Field Hospital’. This status means that next month its ranks will be on standby to be deployed to wherever they are needed to support British troops around the world.
Such an important, impending role requires the utmost preparation, so to make sure all personnel involved knows how to react when the medical facility is assembled overseas, they were put through their paces at a tented, 52-bed field hospital in Dishforth today as part of a two-week exercise.
The Yorkshire Post was invited to publicly document the preparations which were also observed by a delegation of international visitors from ten different countries.
The overseas visitors from countries including the US, Pakistan and China saw the medics practice a range of scenarios using hi-tech equipment which had been reinforced to withstand rugged handling and transportation.
Such practice was of great importance, explained Lieutenant Colonel Paul Reynolds, the commanding officer of 34 Field Hospital.
“This exercise is essential for my unit which returned from operations in Sierra Leone last year,” Lt Col Reynolds said.
“We are preparing ourselves to be sent anywhere in the world and what we have had to demonstrate during the validation is that we can deploy, establish and operate the field hospital in an austere environment in a set time frame.
“My personnel in each of the key departments of the hospital have demonstrated their clinical skills in a range of scenarios involving simulated casualties.
“I am immensely proud to lead a team that has come together and worked extremely hard to be able to produce world class health care in any environment anywhere in the world with only a few days notice.”
As part of the test exercise, medics erected a tented hospital which is normally stored in 78 containers and consists of more than 100 individual green tents. Next week they must collapse the tents and pack them so they are ready for action.
The exercise has also involved 30 US Army medics from Germany so that they can learn about their allies’ working practices and ensure that when they are deployed together, they maintain high-quality care to service personnel.
The tents house four emergency beds, two operating tables, four intensive treatment unit beds and 48 general ward beds. The medical team can use the facility’s resources to perform operations and resuscitations, hold critically-ill patients and care for those in need of convalescence so they can return quickly to the front-line.
The facility has a CT scanner to take medical images and it has the capacity to hold 160 pints of blood and other blood products in controlled conditions.
GRAND SCALE OF DEPLOYMENT
Regardless of where 34 Field Hospital unit is deployed, its portable complex of tents have a huge capacity.
Up to 500 people can be accommodated and the facility’s cookhouse can feed more than 300 people at any one sitting.
Other facilities range from a mobile shower and toilet units, to a welfare tent staffed by two trained Army Welfare Service workers and a ‘gym in a box’ comprising of two shipping containers fitted out with the type of modern fitness equipment that is found in a civilian gym.
As well as a team of trained medics, the unit’s support staff include engineers, signallers, store men, pharmacists, vehicle mechanics and chefs.