More than 150 Royal Naval personnel are taking part in a major medical exercise in the Channel off Devon. They’re on board the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus which doubles as a floating hospital.
Most of the doctors, nurses, and ancilliary staff involved have already served at the hospital at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. They’re running a similar front-line hospital on the ship, receiving casualties, stabilising them and getting them back home for further medical care as soon as possible. But in this case the injuries are only simulated.
There is a fully-equipped 100 bed-hospital facility aboard the ship, including a four-bay operating theatre. It has 10 beds in its intensive care unit, and a further 20 in a high dependency unit. It has a full range of support services, including a CT scanner, pathology, pharmacy, physiotherapy, and psychiatry.
Virtually all armed forces medics work in civilian hospitals when they’re not deployed on active service. The 150 aboard Argus are drawn from hospitals across the South West. Chief Petty Officer Nicola Leftley, works at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth when not deployed:
All the clinical staff are also fully trained naval personnel so they’re expected to deal with the fires and floods they may encounter in a war zone. They’ve been tested on those skills regularly as the ship comes under simulated attack. But the patient always come first.
Even when the enemy leaves them alone, the elements are not always friendly. Watch the full report by John Andrews: