UK medics to be able to register for overseas disasters

Fishing boat swept ashore by 2004 Asian tsunami
Image caption It is hoped the UK medics can help when natural disasters strike

UK doctors, nurses and surgeons will be able to register ways they might help in the event of an overseas disaster, the government has announced.

Medical professionals who want to deploy to emergencies will now be able to put their names on the International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR).

It is hoped up to 400 personnel will be registered and trained by 2014.

The announcement comes on the anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004.

More than 230,000 people were killed when an earthquake caused a massive tidal wave to hit the shores of 14 countries.

Outlining the UK government's plan, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "This is one way the UK can help to stop problems spiralling out of control and also helps us to develop our own disaster resilience."

The UKIETR was set up by the medical charity UK-Med in 2011 and has already deployed surgical team members in Haiti, Libya and Tunisia.

Ms Greening's Department for International Development and the Department of Health have now incorporated the register into the UK's official overseas disaster response.

The register co-ordinates the use of volunteers, ensuring there is the right mix of skills, training and experience for the specific situation being faced.

Professor Tony Redmond of UK-Med said: "The register is a major step forwards in harnessing the skills and goodwill of UK healthcare workers and bringing them to the immediate benefit of those most in need.

"Although not its primary purpose, the experience gained in both training and deployment overseas can only reinforce our response to disasters here at home."

He also told BBC that the charity wanted people with existing medical skills to volunteer now, ahead of any ongoing disaster.

"We will make sure you get properly trained, you have the appropriate skills, and that you can link in to all the other services that are being provided internationally at the scene of a big disaster."

Prof Redmond gave an example of treatment being administered in Haiti following an earthquake there in 2010.

"The amputation rate between foreign medical teams varied between 2-5% for the experienced teams and over 45% for the non-experienced teams. It gets as practical as that."

He said the register being set up was "working towards the concept of a national team, this is the UK's international trauma response.

"We're looking for healthcare professionals, particularly doctors and nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists, and particularly any theatre nurses."

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