Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital chosen as crisis centre for killer disease ebola

The ebola virus.
The ebola virus.
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An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Britain would mean patients from across the country being transferred to Sheffield for treatment.

The Royal Hallamshire Hospital is one of four hospitals nationwide where patients will be treated if a UK outbreak happens.

Dr Anne Tunbridge who specialises in Infectious diseases at The Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield

Dr Anne Tunbridge who specialises in Infectious diseases at The Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield

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The epidemic in Africa has killed more than 3,500 people to date, and the World Health Organisation has warned sporadic cases in Europe are ‘unavoidable’ - despite the risk of the disease spreading being ‘extremely low’.

The Royal Free Hospital in London will treat anyone infected in a UK outbreak, with plans in place to transfer patients to Sheffield, as well as hospitals in Newcastle and Liverpool, if there is a ‘national surge’ in cases.

The Royal Hallamshire has been selected as it has an infectious diseases unit with 33 dedicated beds - more than half of which are isolation rooms.

Dr David Throssell, medical director for Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The risk of Ebola arriving in the UK remains very low and it can only be caught through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.

“The Royal Free Hospital, in London, is the lead centre for the management of any cases of Ebola in the UK. The Royal Hallamshire Hospital is designated as one of three other hospitals which are on standby to support the Royal Free Hospital if needed.

“Our Infectious Diseases Unit is a recognised specialist centre and therefore is well prepared with the equipment, facilities and specialists to deal with any cases of Ebola appropriately and safely.”

But Charlie Carruth, Unison regional organiser and health lead for Yorkshire and Humberside, said the union would meet with hospital bosses to seek reassurances if the Hallamshire was required to treat Ebola cases.

He said: “What people will be seeking is reassurance that, if there was a situation - and it is a very big if, precautions and safeguards are in place to ensure that not only are patients treated safely and securely, but staff and no other patients or visitors are put at risk.

“The likelihood of this actually happening is somewhat limited.

“If there becomes a point where the plans are looked at seriously then we will have a sit down meeting with the management of the hospital to ensure the whole situation is managed properly.

“The Hallamshire is a great hospital that is quite capable of treating all kinds of things including Ebola if need be.”

Last month, nurse William Pooley was successfully treated in an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital after contracting Ebola while working in Sierra Leone.

Operational guidance from NHS England from last month has warned there are only two high level containment beds available in the country - both in the Royal Free Hospital – with no isolation units available at all in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.