Crucial mission for top medics saving lives in the desert

DANGEROUS COUNTRY A Warrior armoured vehicle on patrol
DANGEROUS COUNTRY A Warrior armoured vehicle on patrol
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It may be based in the middle of a desert war zone, but Camp Bastion’s field hospital is rated one of the best trauma centres in the world.

Not surprising when you consider it is staffed by a team of top medics, who train for months to handle the workload in the hostile climate of Afghanistan.

For the last few months, the trauma centre has been run by Gosport-based 33 Field Hospital, who are now preparing to hand over the baton after caring for thousands of troops still deployed on operations in the war zone.

The News has been given exclusive access to the hospital and its staff to see how they operate, saving lives of civilians and soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Archer is the commanding officer of 33 Field Hospital.

He said: ‘The deployment has gone extremely well.

‘The fact we have been able to handle everything that has been thrown at us with the best possible outcomes shows that.

‘You never know when there is going to be a major incident, so you have to be ready at all times.

‘These major incidents are rare, but we have had them, and the team have responded incredibly well.’

As previously reported in The News, 33 Field Hospital deployed in April this year on a six-month tour.

The unit spent around 14 months preparing for the deployment, including many weeks at an Army base in Strensall, York, where there is a replica of the Camp Bastion field hospital.

The medics are working against the backdrop of a draw down in British operations in Afghanistan.

The government wants to see the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014, with responsibility for security in the country being transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces.

This transfer is noticeable in the work of the field hospital, which now sees fewer British casualties and more regularly treats Afghan forces.

The last British casualties in the war in Afghanistan were three members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who died in April.

Corporal William Savage, Fusilier Samuel Flint, and Private Robert Hetherington, were killed when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Major James Fisher said: ‘In general this has been a quieter deployment than previous ones.

‘We are blessed with how few casualties we have had come through here this time around.

‘Sadly we had three deaths at the start of our time here, and there has been an increase in the number of Afghan National Security Forces casualties, but they is to be expected because they are now leading the fight.’

Also read: Medics at heart of front-line care

This story is part of a series of special reports from the only journalist in Camp Bastion – The News’ defence correspondent Sam Bannister. For the latest updates, visit portsmouth.co.uk/defence.