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Medics prepare for Helmand

The exercise at Towthorpe Lines, Strensall, was designed to pull together over a year’s worth of build-up planning for a three-month operational…

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The exercise at Towthorpe Lines, Strensall, was designed to pull together over a year’s worth of build-up planning for a three-month operational tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Amongst those taking part in the exercise was Territorial Army Captain Andy Scott from 201 Field Hospital, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The exercise gave Captain Scott the chance to get to know the other members of his team before arriving in Helmand province as well as helping him to familiarise himself with the different ways of working and terminology amongst the international and tri-Service team.

A detailed mock-up of Camp Bastion’s hospital has been created in Towthorpe Lines to prepare the medical staff for the clinical pressures they will face in theatre.

And the medics were also joined on the exercise by a team of amputee actors and veterans, who use their personal trauma experiences together with realistic make-up and prosthetics to simulate the kinds of injuries that might occur on tour.

They remain in character throughout a given scenario to ensure the training experience is intense and realistic, helping improve performance in the treatment of catastrophic battlefield injuries.

Talking about the exercise, Captain Scott said:

This exercise is brilliant, it’s an excellent set-up, and is as realistic as it can get without being out on the ground in an operational theatre. They are putting us through our paces; it’s very taxing and difficult at times but it needs to be so we are at the right standard to deploy.

I just want to get out there now and get the job done. We all have itchy feet and can’t wait to go and take over from the guys serving at the moment so they can come home and see their loved ones.

Like the other medics taking part in the exercise, Captain Scott is used to providing medical care in difficult circumstances. In his full-time career he works as a Nurse Practitioner at the James Cook University Hospital:

The job I do in the NHS gives me an excellent background in medicine and has trained me to a very high standard, so I’m confident I will be able to treat the guys in theatre at the same level as I do back home, if not better,” he said.

The unit’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Sharon McDowell, will lead the team in Camp Bastion to ensure that world class medical care is maintained at the Helmand hospital. She said:

The mission specific validation training gives the clinical teams the opportunity to rehearse the type of cases and casualties that may come into the hospital out in Camp Bastion.

It’s very realistic; there is a lot of effort put into the casualty simulation which is based on real scenarios that are happening out in theatre, and get fed back to the training facility here.

We work hard to ensure casualties get the same level of care in Afghanistan that you receive in the NHS, or even better sometimes because of the high standard of people over there. Everybody in the team is excited about the challenge and can’t wait to go out and support the military.

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Published 17 January 2012