Military medics bolster skills through partnership with hospital

Tech Sgt Amy Templeton (left), NCO in charge of the operating room for the 48th Surgical Operations

Tech Sgt Amy Templeton (left), NCO in charge of the operating room for the 48th Surgical Operations Squadron, examines medical data with fellow surgical team members of the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL - Credit: Archant

Nearly 700 operations have been performed by United States Air Force (USAF) surgeons at West Suffolk Hospital since 2016 under a partnership scheme that allows military medics to bolster their experience.

Tech Sgt Amy Templeton (left), non-commissioned officer (NCO) in charge of the operating room for th

Tech Sgt Amy Templeton (left), non-commissioned officer (NCO) in charge of the operating room for the 48th Surgical Operations Squadron, with fellow surgical team member Karen Gedge at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL - Credit: Archant

The partnership between West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and RAF Lakenheath’s 48th Medical Group has run since 2010, and sees USAF medical personnel support staff in operating rooms, emergency department and critical care units at the Bury St Edmunds hospital.

The scheme helps RAF Lakenheath medics sustain and improve their high-level clinical skills as they do not have a regular flow of patients at the base’s hospital.

The hospital trust has welcomed surgeons, nurses, and technicians all-year round to share learning and enable skill development.

Dr Nick Jenkins, medical director at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The 48th Medical Group staff are able to put their clinical skills to use working with the west Suffolk acute patient population – an opportunity not often afforded to them in their own facility.

Dr Nick Jenkins, medical director at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITA

Dr Nick Jenkins, medical director at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Picture: WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL - Credit: Archant


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“It provides real life training and opportunities to learn, and keeps USAF staff up-to-date on clinical skills, ready for deployment.

“This is a long-term partnership that we’re very proud of, with regular rotations throughout the year.

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“It’s a really important programme, we’re committed to it and are pleased the rotations on offer have grown over the duration of the partnership; it supports positive patient care and outcomes.”

The relationship between the 48th Medical Group and West Suffolk Hospital has grown over nine years and expanded from the original speciality of general surgery to now include ear, nose and throat (ENT), urology, emergency and critical care nursing, and medical technician theatre care.

Captain Scott Hiles, 48th Medical Group nurse, who has just finished a six-week rotation in the trust’s emergency department, said: “Patients immediately say to me, ‘you’re not from around here are you?’

“The NHS allows us to step in and get those clinical skills we may need for any future deployments we may have, which is so useful.

“I’ve really appreciated the openness and willingness of staff helping us to come and be a part of their team. It has been fantastic, and hopefully they feel we have supported them too.”

Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Swartz, 48th Medical Group ENT surgeon, who regularly does work at West Suffolk Hospital and other local trusts, said: “I don’t get a lot of chance to do complicated cases on the base – they require a lot more skill. “Having this experience helps me to be better at routine cases on the base and on deployment.”

Dr Jenkins added: “The West Suffolk Hospital benefits from the support of USAF staff, they are part of west Suffolk teams and the shared learning and best practice this partnership provides is very exciting. “It’s great for patients both on the base at RAF Lakenheath and for our local community here in the west of Suffolk.”

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