Short Iraq assignments to be available for doctors

Plans are being made for highly skilled NHS specialists to be able to deploy on short assignments with Armed Forces, the health secretary is to announce.

Alan Johnson will say this evening that assignments can be undertaken in places like Iraq and Afghanistan without health professionals having to take on a regular role in the Reserve Forces.

The plans are being developed to support the Armed Forces in specialisms where there are particular pressures such as intensive care, emergency medicine and neurosurgery.

In a speech at the Imperial War Museum in London on Friday evening Mr Johnson will urge NHS managers and reservists to be supportive of staff who are interested in volunteering.

He is to outline the level of experience doctors gain abroad; during a three month operational tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, a reservist will typically deal with more trauma than during fifteen years working for the NHS – as well as learning important things like leadership, communication, adaptability and teamwork.

“I believe that all NHS Trusts can benefit from encouraging their employees to be reservists,” Mr Johnson will say.

“The skills that they learn on their operational tours in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are absolutely invaluable and the care they provide to our Armed Forces is second to none.”