This autumn, three members of staff from Prince Charles and Royal Glamorgan hospitals will be scrubbing up in Afghanistan as they treat the wounded and sick in Camp Bastion as members of 203 Field Hospital. This is their story:
Teresa Levett.jpgMAJOR Teresa Levett will be running the theatres at Camp Bastion when she arrives in Afghanistan at the start of a six-month deployment.
The officer-in-charge of 203 Field Hospital (V) HQ Detachment has worked three times in Helmand Province during her nine-year career with the Army Reserves (formally the Territorial Army).
While she will deploy with 203 Field Hospital in the autumn, Maj Levett will spend sixth months in Afghanistan, instead of the normal three, as she continues to work with the next UK field hospital unit to be sent out.
“I’ve been deployed to Afghanistan three times – in 2008, 2010 and now. In 2010, I deployed with the Scottish field hospital as an individual in the role as the trauma nurse coordinator, an extremely challenging role. On this occasion, I will be officer-in-charge of the operating theatres.
“That means ensuring that quality patient care is provided at all times and necessary, improve where the need may arise; It is essential all the equipment and resources, including staff are in excellent working order to meet all eventualities. Training and being competent in the service we provide is paramount.
“Even in Bastion we are under the umbrella of clinical governance where we are continuously auditing what we are doing and how.”
Maj Levett, who is an orthopaedic team leader in theatres at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, in Llantrisant, added: “I’m really looking forward to the challenges of the role. I’ve been in theatres for 18 years so to take command is quite an honour.”
The 52-year-old mother-of-three, who lives in Tonyrefail, joined 203 Field Hospital in 2004. She had originally hoped to join the regular Army as a teenager but was advised to train as a nurse in the NHS instead – advice she followed.
Maj Levett said: “It’s something that I always wanted to do, one way or another – I had a brother and a cousin in the armed forces.
“I’ve been very lucky; all my children are very supportive and because I’ve been out twice before they are aware of the situation and have incredible support from those in the unit while we are away with regular updates and family days. Of course I will miss them.
“There’s a huge commitment in what we do; it’s very much about teamwork – while you’re out there you’re watching everyone else’s back and they’re watching yours, supporting, guiding and encouraging.
“The military ethos, command and training, skills and knowledge has influenced practice within the NHS.
“I try to utilise what I’ve learned in the NHS and in the military for the benefits of a wider population. It is a partnership. I’m not just doing a Monday to Friday role; the teams I work with have a wealth of knowledge, together we could be involved in new experiences that could potentially expand and advance the quality of care we provide for casualties within a war zone or with our patients at home in the future.”
Leighton Davies (1).JPGLEIGHTON Davies believes he owes his NHS and Army Reserves career to a chance meeting with colleague Phil Thomas in Iraq.
At the time, the 43-year-old was working for the DVLA and had initially joined an infantry unit in the Reserves to play the cornet in the brass band. When the band broke up in 1999, Corporal Davies became a combat medical technician, which took him to Iraq for a six-month tour of duty.
“I was on guard duty and cleaning toilets for six months in Iraq,” he said. “After three months of this I met Phil Thomas in the hospital theatres and he told me about the role of the operating department practitioner – I thought it was just doctors and nurses. It had never crossed my mind doing a job like that.”
On his return from Iraq, Cpl Davies retrained as an operating department practitioner, qualifying in 2007 and taking up a job in Prince Charles Hospital, in Merthyr Tydfil.
“If it wasn’t for being in the Army and in Iraq and then meeting Phil, I wouldn’t be where I am today – I’ve always felt indebted to the Army.”
Cpl Davies, who lives in Cwmllynfell, has previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as an operating department practitioner and will work alongside other members of 203 Field Hospital in Camp Bastion for three months this autumn.
“The last time I was in Afghanistan, I had one day off in three-and-a-half months and, at one time, I operated for 27 hours without a break – casualties were coming in and you kept working to save lives.
“It’s very high intensity work and a very different environment to the NHS – you’re there doing very exciting operations and you feel very proud that you’re saving lives.
I enjoy working in a hospital and I enjoy operations – I find it an exciting place to work and an exciting job. The pinnacle of this work is Camp Bastion – it’s one of the busiest trauma hospitals in the world.
fieldhosp.jpg “If you like working in a hospital and find it exciting, then that’s the place to be because that’s where you’re doing your most extreme, exciting and proudest work.”
Cpl Davies said: “I feel I’ve been very privileged – I’ve been in the Army Reserves for 16 years and I’ve travelled the world.
“My family are very proud – they didn’t want me to go but they understand the work that I do.”
PHIL Thomas’ dream of joining the Army was quashed when he became a father at a young age. Instead he joined the Territorial Army (now the Army Reserves), serving initially as an infantry soldier.
It was a decision which would impact on his civilian NHS career, moving him from a job in a hospital kitchen to the operating theatres.
Phil Thomas (1).JPGThe 47-year-old, from Penderyn, who left school with no qualifications, was inspired to sit his GCSEs at night school by a TA officer. With the support of a theatre manager at Prince Charles Hospital, in Merthyr Tydfil, he trained and began work as an operating department practitioner. In time, he joined 203 Field Hospital.
Now a captain, he is preparing for another tour of duty as 203 Field Hospital is deployed to Afghanistan to run hospital facilities at Camp Bastion.
He has previously been deployed to Iraq – working on the Kuwaiti border and in Basra – and, in 2008 when 203 Field Hospital deployed en masse to Afghanistan for the first time in its history, Cpt Thomas worked as the theatre manager, running all the theatres at Camp Bastion.
“It’s mentally and physically tough. In the NHS, your shift is eight hours but the longest time I worked in Afghanistan was 38 to 39 hours in one go, non-stop. It becomes a normal thing and you get used to it.
“I do think there’s more pressure though working in the NHS than in Camp Bastion – when you’re under pressure in Camp Bastion it’s usually because you have a number of very, very sick casualties but everyone seems to work together more as a team and resources are never a problem.
“I think people in the NHS don’t realise how spoiled they are – it’s when you go away that you realise how good things are in both places.”
Cpt Thomas admitted he has “mixed feelings” about deploying to Afghanistan, although he said as soon as he arrives he will “switch on and get on with it”.
“We’re very well prepared before we leave and I’m probably more at risk of having a care accident coming to work at Prince Charles Hospital than I am in Afghanistan,” he added.
Source: Cwm Taf Health Board