NHS volunteers head to Sierra Leona to fight Ebola

UK government says those flying out to help are 'heroes'

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NHS staff from across the UK are flying to Sierra Leone today to help treat victims of the Ebola epidemic currently taking place in the country.

More than 30 doctors, nurses and other clinicians – including consultants in emergency medicine – will diagnose and treat patients in the west African nation.

The British medical volunteers will first undergo a week of training in the country’s capital Freetown.

Donna Wood, senior sister at Haywood Hospital in Staffordshire, will be travelling to Sierra Leone this weekend. She said she and others were well-equipped to help Sierra Leoneans because of the high standard of training in the NHS.

“I’d been following the stories on the news so when I saw an email from the NHS highlighting the Ebola situation in Sierra Leone and calling for volunteers I felt I had act. I knew I could use the skills I’ve got to make a difference and join a team to help bring the disease under control,” she said.

“We’ve had gold standard training – second to none. We’re very lucky in this country to have the NHS, the staff and the skills – it’s just not the case everywhere else. My parents and the whole family are proud of my decision to go.”

The UK’s international development secretary Justine Greening said NHS workers’ skills were “desperately” needed to fight the outbreak and described those travelling to affected areas as “heroes”.

“To beat Ebola we desperately need the experience and dedication of skilled doctors and nurses to care for the thousands of sick and dying patients who are not receiving the treatment they need,” she explained.

“Every one of these NHS heroes will play a vital role in the fight against Ebola. It is only because of their combined efforts that we stand a chance of defeating this disease.”

Professor Tony Redmond, head of UK-Med, an organisation that sends UK doctors to international incidents, described the volunteers as “selfless” and said he was “very proud of them all”.

As well as sending the volunteers, the UK has sent £230m in emergency aid to the Ebola response in Sierra Leone, including supporting more than 700 treatment beds to help up to 8,800 patients over 6 months.

Britain has also sent vital supplies such as chlorine and protective clothing and helped open 200 Community Care Centres and three new labs in the country.

More than 800 British armed forces personnel are being deployed alongside the medical volunteers to help establish the medical centres.

Last month the prime minister David Cameron called on other countries in the G20 to follow Britain's example in fighting the disease.