As if the role of senior house officer at Torbay Hospital was not demanding enough, Doctor Rory Riddell jumped at the chance to start a second ‘career’ – as a Captain in the Army Reserve.
The 27-year-old anaesthetics specialist, who lives at Kingskerswell, serves with the Exeter detachment of South West-based 243 Field Hospital and has found his two years in uniform an exhilarating experience.
“We’re quite a relaxed unit, which helps a lot,” he said. “Many of us work for the National Health Service and therefore, if at the last minute you can’t make a training session due to pressures in the civilian workplace, everyone understands.
“To be honest, I tend to forget about my daytime duties once I am with 243 Field Hospital because the Army role, including fitness and adventurous training opportunities, is so different. As they say, a change is as good as a rest.”
Rory, originally from Reading, studied medicine at Bristol University, where experience in the Officer Training Corps gave him “a flavour of military life.”
He worked at Frenchay and Southmead hospitals in Bristol before starting his current job. “I needed a couple of years to settle into the daily routine of work,” he added. “The Army then presented me with the fresh challenge I wanted.”
243 Field Hospital recruits mainly from staff at NHS hospitals and other civilian medical services around the South West of England. With their highly developed mix of skills, the Reservists are at the cutting edge of emergency medical treatment.
Their dedicated service carries on a century-long tradition of life-saving care close to the battlefield, one recently celebrated in the popular BBC TV First World War drama, The Crimson Field.
It is just over a year ago that nearly 50 Reservists from 243 Field Hospital returned from Camp Bastion where they had been mobilised as part of Op Herrick 17A. Along with US Army colleagues, they took responsibility for a fully-functioning hospital, complete with emergency department, operating theatres, wards, X-ray and pathology laboratories.
Rory was one of 70 members of 243 Field Hospital who have just spent an intensive two days preparing for future roles where demands on their skills are not so easily predicted.
The ‘clinical training’ weekend began in the Education Centre of Bristol Royal Infirmary and finished on Sunday afternoon with a casualty evacuation exercise at the Pilning training area on the banks of the Severn.
Course director Captain Darren Heddington explained: “The idea of this training now, post-Afghanistan, is to get the guys out in the field preparing to give ‘care under fire’ rather than staffing a hospital as at Camp Bastion.
“So now we are going back to ‘green’, brushing up on our military skills to work in a more challenging pre-hospitalisation environment which involves command tasks and evacuating casualties.”
243 Field Hospital’s training is normally carried out within each of the detachments around the region – at its Bristol HQ, and also at Army Reserve Centres in Gloucester, Exeter, Plymouth, Truro and Portsmouth. The whole Field Hospital will be brought together again for annual camp in Gibraltar in September.
Under proposals announced last July by The Secretary of State for Defence, the Territorial Army was renamed the Army Reserve. With £1.8bn investment in better training and better equipment, it is planned to expand to 30,000 trained reservists by 2018.
Enhanced conditions for reservists include the introduction of paid annual leave and pension entitlements during training and operations, plus better access to defence health services and training. Employers will be given £500 per month per reservist when mobilised, in addition to existing help such as with the cost of advertising for replacements.
For more information about 243 Field Hospital call 0117 986 3571 or go to http://www.army.mod.uk/medical-services/29934.aspx. To find out about all the opportunities in the Army Reserve visit www.army.mod.uk/join/20237.aspx.