International visitors from ten different countries visited a 52-bed tented field hospital in Dishforth, North Yorkshire and met the medics of a York-based Field Hospital who will soon be on standby to deploy anywhere in the world…

34 Field Hospital, normally based in Strensall, has just been validated as the Vanguard Field Hospital meaning it will go on standby from November.

The overseas visitors from countries including the US, Pakistan and China saw the medics involved in a range of scenarios using hi-tech equipment ruggedised to meet challenging environments.

“This exercise is essential for my unit which returned from operations in Sierra Leone last year,” said Lieutenant Colonel Paul Reynolds, the Commanding Officer of 34 Field Hospital. 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 timeframe.

“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 healthcare in any environment anywhere in the world with only a few days notice. This includes not just the medical staff but also our support staff who have made our validation possible."

As part of the testing exercise the medics have had to build the tented hospital which is normally stored in 78 containers and consists of over 100 tents. Next week will see them collapse it and pack it up ready to be moved elsewhere.

The green tented complex houses four Emergency Beds, two Operating Tables, four Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) beds, and 48 General Ward beds. Staff are able to resuscitate patients, undertake surgical interventions, hold critically ill patients and care for a number of patients convalescing to enable them to return as quickly as possible to the front-line. The facility is capable of taking high quality medical images using a state-of-the-art CT-scanner and, when deployed, able to hold 160 pints of blood and other blood products in strictly controlled conditions to allow their safe use.

Major Caroline Vincent, the OC of the clinical squadron, said they had practised for a year building up to the validation which was carried out by the Army Medical Services Training Centre.

“We originally built a smaller hospital with fewer beds and we completed that ready to receive our first patient within 16 hours,” said Maj Vincent. “Later we extended it to the current larger construction which has 48 ward beds, taking approximately another eight hours to build onto the original configuration.

“We have been joined this week by 204 (North Irish) Field Hospital and 243 (Wessex) Field Hospital – both Reserve field hospitals. 34 Field Hospital’s role is to train them in the light of what we learnt last week as part of our validation exercise. Next year these two Reserve units will conduct their own validations to go on standby.”

The medics have also been joined in the exercise by a group of 30 US Army medics from Germany. This is one of a number of exercises the UK Armed Forces carries out with its Allies, giving nations an understanding of respective working practices and ensuring that when they are deployed together, they deliver seamless, high quality care to the servicemen and women.

Supporting the field hospital are engineers, signallers, storemen, pharmacists, vehicle mechanics and chefs.

There are up to 500 people accommodated in tents on site and the cookhouse can feed over 300 people at one sitting. Facilities include mobile shower and toilet units, a welfare tent staffed by two trained Army Welfare Service workers and even a new ‘gym in a box’ which can be deployed overseas – two ISO containers with all the modern fitness equipment and weights expected to be found in normal gymnasium.