Findings from a new report produced by frontline medical aid charity UK-Med highlights how doctors and nurses who’ve returned from international emergency medical responses bring vital skills and experience back to the NHS, particularly in relation to COVID-19.
Consultant Paediatrician, Stephen Owens, from Newcastle’s Great North Children’s Hospital says his experience fighting Ebola, measles and diphtheria in Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and Samoa, has been ‘priceless’ in fighting global health risks back home, including in the UK’s response to COVID-19.
Stephen says: “We live in an increasingly globalised society. People can travel from one side of the world to the other in a matter of hours, and so can infectious diseases. That means that the exotic, ‘foreign’ pathogens that we read about as medical students and promptly forgot about, could now turn up anywhere.
“Experience in overseas outbreak response provides invaluable experience for NHS clinicians like me, which helps us to recognise and manage these infections quickly and effectively wherever we meet them. Everyone benefits.”
Newcastle was the first UK city to admit a patient with COVID-19 and the
47-year-old specialist in infectious diseases and immunology was able to offer essential advice to senior staff at his hospital on the study of the disease and how they should plan for the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 to the unit’s health services.
“My experience in Kerrytown (Sierra Leone) included knowing what it’s like to work with patients in PPE, managing anxieties among staff, managing isolation safely. All of that I think has been extremely helpful, and it’s also allowed us to take the lead role in discussions about isolation of children and how that would work in terms of things like parental access.”
Stephen’s experience mirrors 88% of UK Med survey respondents in the report who say they use the skills directly gained through UK-Med in their COVID-19 response.
The report released today draws out the many benefits returning clinicians from UK-Med emergency medical responses have brought back to the NHS. Between 83-98% of respondents reported improvements in their clinical skills, resilience, well-being, and the ability to provide better patient experiences. The report makes recommendations to NHS leaders to encourage participation in global health emergency responses as a way to develop skills and build resilience within the NHS.
Professor Tony Redmond OBE, Founder and Chair of UK-Med summarises the importance of the reports’ findings: “There is no health without global health. The recent pandemic has shown just how quickly disease can spread and how our NHS must be trained and prepared for any eventuality. Experience gained in disasters and outbreaks by NHS staff fortifies our defences and increases our resilience. A global Britain needs global experience.”
Read the full report here.