Lifesaving medical services have been cleared to operate on board the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, as she prepares to land fighter jets on her deck for the very first time.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is in the USA to conduct trials with test F-35B Lightning II jets from the Integrated Test Force, based out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. As well as this historic ‘first’, a Role 2 Surgical Team has this week proven its capability through a series of realistic exercises, resulting in it being declared as having ‘Full Operational Capability’ (FOC) onboard the carrier.
The ship is permanently staffed by a Role 1 Team to ensure that all onboard receive first aid, GP and dental services wherever the ship deploys across the globe. Trained medical personnel can provide triage, first aid and initial resuscitation of an injured or ill casualty. The facility is equipped with lifesaving equipment which can be employed to resuscitate and stabilise a casualty for evacuation to a higher level of clinical care if needed.
An 18-strong Role 2 Team embarked as HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed from Portsmouth in August, to provide real-time life support during the deployment. The milestone of reaching FOC means it can be available when the ship operates in an environment where there may be a risk of a high number of casualties or if the ship’s location precludes timely evacuation of a critically ill or injured casualty.
A Role 2 Afloat is able to perform advanced resuscitation techniques, including damage control surgery, beyond that of Role 1. It is staffed by a highly trained team including surgeons, anaesthetists, and specialist nurses, including Intensive Care staff, who all spend their time ashore working within the NHS to maintain their specialist skills. It provides Role 2 to all ships in a Task Group; HMS Monmouth conducted a casualty evacuation, or ‘CASEVAC’, to HMS Queen Elizabeth by helicopter during an exercise to prove the system.
Role 2 Afloat Detachment Commander in HMS Queen Elizabeth, Surgeon Captain Christopher Streets, who is otherwise to be found ashore at Bristol Royal Infirmary where he is an Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, says the team brings an exceptional amount of experience from previous military operations:
“This is not new activity for us, we have a lot of experience in the team from operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and even during disaster relief on Op Ruman in the Caribbean last year for example. What is different, is the platform we are on. We’ve deployed the teams in Type 45 destroyers, the Bay class Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, and now this incredible new carrier, setting the scene for the next 50 years of UK Carrier Strike activity.
“For us the patient care pathway is the same, wherever we are based, it’s just a case of learning whether to turn right or left to get to where we need to be.”