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Norfolk ambulance worker joins fight against Ebola in west Africa

PUBLISHED: 09:23 27 October 2014 | UPDATED: 09:32 27 October 2014

Pete Simpson, who works for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, who has gone out to Sierra Leone to join the fight against Ebola.

Pete Simpson, who works for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, who has gone out to Sierra Leone to join the fight against Ebola.

Archant

A Norfolk lifesaver has become one of the first NHS workers in the region to join the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in west Africa.

Command role

Pete Simpson’s duties in Freetown will include:

• managing a call centre and supervising a team of local staff.

• co-ordinating an information centre to track bed capacity.

• making effective use of scarce ambulance and non-patient transport resources.

• ensure lab samples are transported effectively and accountably.

• co-ordination of burial teams, collection of laboratory tests and distribution of medical supplies to isolation units.

• mentoring and training of Sierra Leone staff, working in partnership to develop local skills.

Pete Simpson, of Thorpe Marriott, who has worked for the ambulance service for almost 30 years, flew out to Sierra Leone at the weekend to help bolster the western world’s response to the disease, which has killed more than 4,000 people in Africa.

The 51-year-old, who is responsible for the training of hundreds of front-line staff at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), arrived in Freetown on Saturday to help run the capital’s Ebola command centre and coordinate efforts to control and contain the virus.

The clinical operations manager for the ambulance service in Hellesdon spoke of his excitement and nervousness about joining the international battle against Ebola, who is set to spend the next five weeks in Sierra Leone.

The father-of-three is one of 800 NHS staff from across the country to have volunteered to go out to west Africa, with many joining the aid effort in the coming months.

However, the ambulance service manager was one of the first to fly out from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on a military cargo plane on Saturday, organised by the Department for International Development.

Mr Simpson, whose duties will involve coordinating ambulances, tracking bed capacity, and training local health staff, said his family were concerned, but proud of his volunteering mission.

Speaking before his flight, he said: “I would be incredibly naive if I did not have concerns, but I will take precautions to prevent the risk. There is risk in life whatever you do, but if you identify the risks and minimise the risks that is the best you can do. If you are scared you are extra cautious.”

“It will be exciting and interesting and a great experience and if I can do something positive, that is going to be great.”

Mr Simpson, who joined the ambulance service in 1986, was interviewed by UK-Med for the volunteering role last Monday and was told on Thursday that a flight had been secured to join the Ebola command centre with the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership.

He added that the management team at EEAST had been very supportive.

“You can either be part of the solution or part of the problem and I would rather be part of the solution. There is a lot of ignorance about how it is transferred.

“We would be better placed if we had knowledge and experience dealing with it. I can do something positive there and bring back experience back here for our ambulance service. I do not have any concerns about our ability to respond here, but if I can get additional information that can help to reduce risk to staff and minimise risk, that has to be a good thing,” he said.

Mr Simpson, who received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2009 for improving lifesaving skills in local schools, added he was “prepared for the worst”.

“The average life expectancy is 45 and there is a 20pc mortality rate for under 5s and it looks very poverty stricken. It may be they need many more ambulances, but we have the same problem in the East of England. If you have all the ambulances you need for all the sick people, there is no use if there is no hospital or treatment centre to take them to,” he said.

EEAST chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh said: “I am immensely proud that Pete will be providing clinical leadership as Ambulance Coordinator working in the Ebola Command Centre. As we know with these vital roles, it takes a very special kind of person to be prepared to leave their loved ones and their life behind to play their part in building and strengthening the local health system.

“I know Peter would not have taken this decision lightly, given the risks involved in working in such an environment, but it’s very clear that Sierra Leone as with other affected areas needs more and more support from us. On behalf of the service, I have given him my very best wishes and we will be in regular contact with him during his crucial work there.”

Are you joining the Ebola fight in west Africa? Email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

19 comments

  • yes your right this is a free country,free for all the immigrants to come have free handouts, we are told the country is in debt and all these cuts are made,we have people dying of cancer and nhs wont pay for expensive drugs to prolong their lives, buts its ok to send millions of tax payers money to countries half way round the world.

    Report this comment

    jmm

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • One could be forgiven for believing that the motivation to go to West Africa to fight Ebola is driven by more than simple compassion and goodwill for some of the people involved? Unfortunately, I'm sure that the motivation for a few medical staff will be to bolster their CV's and for a perceived career boost. Having said that, I for one, wish Mr Simpson all the best in his gallant efforts to help the people of West Africa battle this most deadly of diseases. However, one does have to ask if his departure warranted so much publicity?

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • anyone who chooses to go there should have a one way ticket, what right does anyone have to go into a dangerous area with a deadly disease with no cure then come back to our country and risk innocent lives, no matter how small the risk is its still to big

    Report this comment

    jmm

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

  • jmm: why is it ok for him to go there? because he chooses to do so. This is a free country.

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

  • jmm... spoiling for a fight: Little Englander has nothing to do with racism, it is an expression about ATTITUDE, Fortress Britain (could just as easily be Fortress AnyOtherCountry). But you're plainly beyond reasoning with, so I'll leave it there. You may fuliminate on your own, my friend

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

  • jmm. It is a fact, that you only catch it via close contact with someone's blood, bodily fluid, organs, or from handling the dead. (Most of which you're unlikely to do on a plane) What this man is doing is very admirable. The reason it spreads in the areas it does is very much to do with lack of sanitationresources around dealing with the disease. With regards to potentially bringing it back here, to think they don't get isolated and checked before coming back is quite narrow minded. There will be all manner of safeguards in place! If it were on the other foot and we needed the help And expertise on offer from another country I'm sure you'd want it too. So stop being such a selfish human being.

    Report this comment

    norwich_pp

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

  • would he go there if he had a young family with kids under 7 shall we say, I bet he wouldn't cause he wouldn't want to risk bringing it home and them catching it,no matter how small the risk was .even if 0.1 % its still to much, so why is it ok for him to go there come back and potentially risk our kids and familys lives??????

    Report this comment

    jmm

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • little Englanders ?really? this is England and this is an English website is it not? imagine I I said a statement like that directed at a non English person, plenty would soon call me the r word, surpose its ok the other way round as usuall

    Report this comment

    jmm

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • jmm, if you think that the LSHTM staffers who've gone to help in a humanitrian crisis are selfish, the there's really nothing more to say

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • We don't see the medical implications nor the political complications when it comes to third world countries. Well done to him and the other 799 staff for adding this to their CV. I love how British Citizenship immediately trains our brains to 'aid' less fortunate countries and not our own. If we had 800 more staff working in the NHS then maybe our nurses and midwives would be able to give proper care. If I were homeless then I'd hate to think how many of those 800 wouldn't even offer me a cup of tea.

    Report this comment

    Courtisans-House

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • ref your comment little Englanders?well yes this is England and an English website, imagine If I directed that comment in reverse, how many would say that's racist??? ok the other way though isn't it

    Report this comment

    jmm

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • yes they are, ebola is not in Britain and would never be in Britain until now,when we are told the uk will have ebola before xmas, why is that? because selfish do gooders go over there with no thought for their own country... the fact is if the country was shut off from ebola hit countrys then we wouldn't get it,fact. we will get it at some point due to people going over to there

    Report this comment

    jmm

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • why has my comment been removed? it said, in terms, that London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine staff (who do have some expertise in this domain!) have volunteered en masse to go to Ebola-stricken countries. Are they wrong, then, and the Little Englanders on this web site right?

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • selfish idiot, 1 person will make no difference ,why take the risk, even if low as 1%, why risk our population, what happens if he comes back and develops symptoms 2 weeks after ,which is possible then we and our familys are at risk,, infected countrys should be shut off and left for it to naturally slow down, why are we being told you can only catch it with contact via blood,bodily fluids,organs, if this was true then how are so many people catching every day ,how have thousands caught it in weeks?does it rain blood there??.

    Report this comment

    jmm

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • Daisy Roots: stuff and nonsense. Staff at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (who know a thing or two about epidemiology and tropical diseases) have volunteered en masse to go to the Ebola-stricken countries. I'd go, but I've no relevant skills and I'm too old now - I'd just be in the way. But if I could go, I'd have not the slightest objection to being place in quarantine for 21 days (even though this is a contradiction in terms...) upon my return. It's so disappointing (if predictable) to see the Fortress Blighty mentality rear its ugly xenophobic head yet again. You're happy enough to drool over their (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea) 'blood diamonds' aren't you? And how does one 'roam the tax system' by the way? Is tax contagious?

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • When will people wake up....to catch Ebola you have to come in to contact with either the blood, body fluids or organs of an infected person. Whilst people like Pete (Who is doing a very honourable thing) may be at risk from catching it, the chance of bringing it back and spreading it is very, very minimal. (Hence the reason we haven't had a break out in developed countries). As per normal, the media seem very reluctant to make the facts about transmission clear, after all, what good is it if you can't generate some panic!

    Report this comment

    norwich_pp

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • Whilst I have a lot of respect for people like Mr Simpson I think his compassion is misplaced, there is a small risk that he may bring back ebola to Britain.

    Report this comment

    John Bridge

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • Well we do have a phrase about Norfolk people. I can't read, I can't Write but I can Drive Tractor. Well it will be that with , now I have Ebola put on the end.

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Monday, October 27, 2014

  • Well it is very brave but it is also wrong as we are going to realise soon .We should be leaving treatment to those who live in the region, even if we provide equipment and medicines because there is already a school of thought among some experts that thinks we should be firebreaking this disease and any treatment without an available vaccine merely risks spreading the virus. Given the shambles in New York where a returning medic roamed the rail and tax system before falling ill, one hopes Mr Simpson will be immediately quarantined on boarding the airplane out of Sierra Leone. Brave, compassionate but possibly ultimately not a good idea.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Monday, October 27, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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