Development of UK-Med
UK-Med developed out of the South Manchester Accident Rescue Team (SMART). SMART started life as a local medical team, acting in support of the rescue and ambulance services in Manchester. The SMART team responded to earthquakes in Armenia and Iran, as well as the Kurdish refugee crisis on the Iran/Iraq border. SMART members also attended the Lockerbie air disaster. In the early years of its activity, UK-Med responded to a number of sudden-onset disasters, providing technical advice, specialist surgical and other clinical support.
Throughout the siege of Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992-1995), UK-Med organised surgical teams to work in the Sarajevo trauma centre, supporting local staff in their management of war injuries.
Response to Outbreak
Following the 1995 eruption of the Pico Volcano on the island of Fogo (Cape Verde Islands, 1995) the evacuation onto another island, Sao Vicente, where cholera was present, led to an outbreak. The subsequent cholera epidemic was managed by UK-Med with a core team of volunteers working in rotation in support of the local health services over a nine month period.
Response to Earthquake
UK-Med clinicians were deployed on behalf of the UK government, in response to the magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck the Wenchuan area of Sichuan province, China on 12 May 2008. The team arrived in country three days after the primary shock, initially working in Mianyang hospital, close to the epicentre. The core team comprised of a plastic reconstructive surgeon and two orthopaedic surgeons supported by two emergency physicians, an emergency nurse consultant and an epidemiologist. Anaesthetic support was provided by local anaesthetists. In collaboration with Chinese colleagues the team reviewed over 50 cases.
UK-Med subsequently delivered emergency medicine and spinal cord injury rehabilitation training programmes in China as well as supporting Chinese health care workers coming to the UK for further training. The charity remains engaged with professionals in China to help improve disaster preparedness and responses.
UK-Med also provided advice on the aid requirements after the earthquake at the end of February 2010 in Chile, which reached 8.8 on the Richter scale.
International humanitarian response reaches a turning point
The earthquake in Haiti in 2010 was a turning point for humanitarian response, and also for UK-Med. In January 2010, members of UK-Med were deployed on behalf of the Department for International Development (DFID) to respond to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.**
The team worked alongside Merlin, GOAL and BAPRAS surgeons. This multi-agency team led the UK surgical response to the earthquake, predominantly performing limb salvage surgery. A rolling rota of surgeons, anaesthetists and emergency physicians and nurses saw over 70 medical personnel rotating through the field hospital. Over 600 major operations were carried out and over 7000 patients were treated in a three and a half month period.
In the months that followed UK-Med, Handicap International and HCRI collaborated to produce a qualitative and quantitative study of the surgical and rehabilitation response to the earthquake.
Haiti was a turning point. The international community was forced to re-think its response to international emergencies and look to ensure that responders were always professional, prepared, well trained and fully accountable. UK-Med has always promoted and worked in full support of this approach.
**Tony Redmond et al. (2011) A Qualitative and Quantitative Study of the Surgical and Rehabilitation Response to the Earthquake in Haiti Pre-hospital and Disaster Medicine