07 / 10 / 2015 Midday
The Army Medical Services Training Centre (AMSTC), part of the second Medical Brigade based in York, gained the Special Recognition award at the recent Health Service Journal Value in Healthcare awards ceremony.
The award acknowledged the dedication of teams at AMSTC for responding rapidly and effectively to the challenging Ebola epidemic in West Africa that became the focus of international attention in 2014.
Labelled by one senior officer as the most dangerous medical mission undertaken since the Second World War, Operation Gritrock required specialist training and a new treatment unit to provide a safe working environment for the 146 medical personnel deployed in Sierra Leone.
The unprecedented severity of the outbreak also meant that many personnel had never dealt with such an infectious and lethal epidemic. It was crucial that the treatment environment was simulated before deployment to ensure the clinicians felt confident to take on the challenge. The correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) was given particular attention.
Whilst deployed, the team were tested daily on their ability to innovate and adapt, especially when it became clear that traditional trauma hospital set ups were not fit for purpose. Rapid procurement of additional equipment ensured the success of the operation for both those deployed and those being treated. Those deployed also had the opportunity to up-skill local health care workers to help to develop a sustainable healthcare infrastructure in Sierra Leone.
The hard work of teams at AMSTC has not only been recognised by the HSJ but also by Downing Street, where a number of members of the Armed Forces were met by Prime Minister David Cameron to applaud their efforts in tackling the humanitarian crisis in Sierra Leone. Speaking at the event, Mr. Cameron said,
"When the world faced this crisis, Britain and brave British medical staff, military personnel, aid workers and volunteers stepped up to the plate
Some 3,000 personnel were awarded medals for their work in such a highly dangerous environment, the first time a medal has been created specifically for services to a humanitarian crisis.