UK — Navy medics train for rapid reaction operations

Roy­al Navy medics have been sharp­en­ing their skills in the field in prepa­ra­tion to sup­port 45 Com­man­do Roy­al Marines lead the UK’s response to unex­pect­ed glob­al events.

Mem­bers of 3 Com­man­do Brigade’s Roy­al Navy med­ical ser­vices as they prac­tise their role two light manoeu­vre capa­bil­i­ty on Exer­cise Green Ser­pent [Pic­ture: Pet­ty Offi­cer Air­man (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Sean Clee, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Under Exer­cise Green Ser­pent, lessons learnt by Roy­al Navy clin­i­cians and ground medics while deployed in sup­port of oper­a­tions in Afghanistan were brought to the Roy­al Marines Base at Chivenor as they put their mobile med­ical facil­i­ty to the test for future operations. 

Called the Com­man­do For­ward Sur­gi­cal Group (CFSG), the advanced field hos­pi­tal treats casu­al­ties brought in from medics on the field before send­ing them to a stan­dard hos­pi­tal for more exten­sive treatment. 

Roy­al Navy clin­i­cians deployed at Nation­al Health Ser­vice (NHS) hos­pi­tals around the UK could be called for­ward at short notice to sup­port the CFSG which boasts an acci­dent and emer­gency depart­ment, a sur­gi­cal room with two oper­at­ing tables and an inten­sive care unit. There is also a lab­o­ra­to­ry for test­ing blood and an abil­i­ty to pro­vide a lim­it­ed num­ber of transfusions. 

Sur­geon Cap­tain Steve Bree, the Roy­al Marines Sur­gi­cal Team’s Oper­a­tional Clin­i­cal Direc­tor and con­sul­tant pae­di­atric anaes­thetist at Der­ri­ford hos­pi­tal, Ply­mouth, said: 

“The idea of hav­ing a high­ly mobile hos­pi­tal facil­i­ty is that we can get it put up and tak­en down with­in an hour — allow­ing us to get our sur­gi­cal teams as close to the fight­ing troops as possible. 

“45 Com­man­do will be the lead Com­man­do group for the next 18 months and will be poised to react to oper­a­tions at very short notice. As one of the sup­port arms, it will be our job to deploy along­side them. 

“When the troops go out the CFSG pro­vides life and limb sav­ing surgery with­in two hours from the point of wound­ing before we then trans­port them on for fur­ther treat­ment. This facil­i­ty mas­sive­ly improved the abil­i­ty to sus­tain life in Afghanistan and by exer­cis­ing this as part of Green Ser­pent we are giv­ing our clin­i­cians the chance to con­stant­ly devel­op it to suit our amphibi­ous operations.” 

The NHS cites the crit­i­cal time peri­od for med­ical help for a wound­ed patient as the ‘gold­en hour’ – the first 60 min­utes from the moment of injury the most cru­cial if they are to sur­vive their injuries. 

Yet, in Afghanistan, that time peri­od has less­ened to the ‘plat­inum ten min­utes’ — usu­al­ly the time it takes to apply a tourni­quet or blood clot­ting agent in the field to pro­long the time a per­son has to reach a doctor. 

From there a patient must see a pro­fes­sion­al medic with­in 50 min­utes before being moved to the CFSG for life and limb sav­ing surgery. In severe cas­es patients would be trans­port­ed direct­ly to a hos­pi­tal such as Bas­tion rather than stop off at the CFSG on route. 

THE CFSG is an inter­im field hos­pi­tal where clin­i­cians will do things like pack a wound to stop it bleed­ing or sta­bilise a shat­tered pelvis before a patient is moved to a hos­pi­tal such as Bas­tion or the hos­pi­tal ship — RFA Argus,” explained Sur­geon Com­man­der Andy Brown, Staff Offi­cer 1 Media Operations. 

“It is quick dam­age con­trol work aimed to mas­sive­ly improve the chance of that per­son sur­viv­ing their injuries in the time it takes to get them to surgery. We have to keep things mov­ing so we take patients in, we use the clin­i­cal team here to sta­bilise their injuries and then we evac­u­ate them out – it is a fast mov­ing process. 

“Exer­cise Green Ser­pent is about the Med­ical Squadron get­ting on track and back to our core busi­ness which is sup­port­ing the Roy­al Marines in a mar­itime environment.” 

From April, 45 Com­man­do will be pro­vid­ing the con­tin­gent capa­bil­i­ty – a key part of UK defence in which forces are ver­sa­tile and able to respond quick­ly to any giv­en scenario. 

As a sup­port­ing arm the Med­ical Squadron would pull in their clin­i­cians from hos­pi­tals across the coun­try and send them into the field along­side 45 Commando. 

One clin­i­cian on stand­by is con­sul­tant anaes­thetist at Queen Alexan­dra hos­pi­tal in Portsmouth, Sur­geon Com­man­der Bar­rie Dekker, who deployed on Oper­a­tion HERRICK 14 last August with 3 Com­man­do Brigade: 

“Here in the field the hos­pi­tal is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent to what we had at Camp Bas­tion in Afghanistan,” he said. 

“Camp Bas­tion has devel­oped into one of the first class trau­ma cen­tres in the world and as a con­sul­tant we have all the equip­ment we would need there to per­form a major resuscitation. 

“The CFSG is not designed to be that type of per­ma­nent sta­t­ic build­ing – in the field we have more lim­it­ed resources so we do what we can to help that patient sur­vive to reach fur­ther treatment.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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