News story

NHS volunteers prepare to head to Sierra Leone to join Ebola response team

More than 50 NHS volunteers from the UK are now going through rigorous training as they prepare to deploy to West Africa to help communities affected by Ebola.

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Ebola response: getting treatment to those in need
Ebola response: getting treatment to those in need. Picture: EC/ECHO/Cyprien Fabre

The final stage of UK training for the NHS staff – which includes doctors, nurses and paramedics – is taking place over the next few days at the Ministry of Defence’s Army Medical Services Training Centre near York.

NHS staff will join international healthcare workers to undergo 9 days of intensive training. To help them prepare for the working conditions they will face, the centre has created as realistic an environment as possible. The temperature in the facility will be hiked up to 30 degrees to simulate temperatures in Sierra Leone and infection control procedures to mirror those in Freetown have been put in place.

Staff are rigorously trained in the correct use of protective equipment. They are then given the opportunity to practice routine tasks, like taking blood, to get used to the wearing the suit. The training focuses on removing protective suits safely and scanners are in use to check for signs of contamination.

Further training will be given to the NHS staff when they arrive in Sierra Leone.

The first group of staff are expected to leave the UK later this week with the rest of the volunteers going out in stages throughout December.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

British men and women from up and down the country have already gone to Sierra Leone to fight Ebola. These scientists, medics, engineers and aid workers are already having an impact on the ground.

This new team of NHS clinicians will join them after undergoing intensive training.

These medics are putting themselves on the frontline in the UK’s fight against Ebola. Their contribution will make a huge difference to people suffering from this horrific disease.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

I want to thank the extraordinary NHS volunteers who have selflessly put their names forward to help fight Ebola in Sierra Leone. They embody the values at the heart of our health service, and their expertise and dedication is second to none.

Lieutenant Colonel Jaish Mahan, Chief Instructor at the Army Medical Services Training Centre said:

The Army Medical Services Training Centre has been a centre of excellence for delivering hospital capability and we are proud to be able to facilitate preparation of the civilian medical staff who have volunteered to help in Sierra Leone.

Professor Tony Redmond, Head of UK Med said:

I continue to be humbled by the continuing response from across the NHS. My enormous thanks go to the teams who are volunteering to go out and the unsung heroes - their NHS colleagues - who are covering their shifts. I’d also like to thank the Trust Executives who facilitate their release.

From December, pre-departure training for NHS and international volunteers will be taken on by RedR, with funding from the Department for International Development.

Published 17 November 2014