The UK Emergency Medical Team (UKEMT) is the front line of the UK’s response to a humanitarian crisis overseas, such as an earthquake or tsunami.
The UKEMT can deploy in a scalable and flexible way, supporting affected countries in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian emergency to deliver life-saving, world-class healthcare provision.
Depending on the need, the UKEMT can deploy resources including a fullly equipped surgical field hospital, standalone specialist units (e.g. rehabilitation, spinal injury), or clinical personnel to work in existing infrastructure.
Funded by UK aid, the UKEMT is staffed by volunteers from the NHS and can deploy at 24 hours notice. A register of UK-based medical and health professionals, who undergo rigorous training to prepare for working in disaster zones, is maintained by the charity UK-Med. The field hospital is operated with the support of the UK Fire and Rescue Service.
The UKEMT is a consortium of 4 different agencies: The Department for International Development (DFID), UK-Med, UK Fire and Rescue Services, and Handicap International.
Since 2013, Humanity & Inclusion has been working to integrate rehabilitation into the UKEMT. This has involved recruiting rehabilitation professionals to join the teams, providing specialist humanitarian training, and working with partners to ensure the field hospital is fully equipped and accessible. This means that now, as well as surgery and emergency healthcare, patient care includes early rehabilitation, including the provision of essential equipment such as wheelchairs and orthotics, psychosocial support, and onward referral.
Humanity & Inclusion has also played a key role in emergency team deployments to the Philippines (2013), Gaza (2014), and Nepal (2015). And, by linking the UKEMT to HI’s own field teams operating in disaster zones, we are able to ensure all patients receive long term follow-up care, which until now has been a major challenge for emergency medical teams.
HI has developed a package of resources to support the project. This includes the first ever clinical manual on rehabilitation in disasters, a briefing paper on disaster management for physiotherapists, and a "do's and don’ts" guide for rehabilitation professionals responding to disasters.
By providing free clinical and humanitarian training for UK health professionals, we are not only strengthening the global humanitarian community but also the NHS. We have worked closely with many professional UK and global professional groups to ensure all our training meets national and international standards of excellence.
WHO rehabilitation standards for emergency teams
In 2016, the UKEMT became one of the first emergency field hospitals to be verified by WHO, and the first to have a dedicated rehabilitation team, led by Humanity & Inclusion, that can deploy rapidly in response to a disaster.
HI has also worked with the WHO Emergency Medical Teams Initiative to expand the Minimum Technical Standards and Recommendations for Rehabilitation. These standards go a long way towards ensuring that all responding agencies will now consider early rehabilitation and continuity of care as part of their response.