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Global health team ready to tackle disease outbreaks in 48 hours

3 November 2016

From this week, the UK has a fully operational specialist team of health experts who can be deployed to tackle outbreaks of deadly disease anywhere in the world within 48 hours.

The UK Public Health Rapid Support Team will be led by Public Health England (PHE) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with King’s College London and the University of Oxford forming part of the research consortium. The team consists of clinicians, scientists and academics who will be on call to respond to urgent requests from countries around the world and fly in to help tackle disease outbreaks at source.

The Ebola crisis highlighted the need for the international community to develop a system to help countries respond to and control disease outbreaks that pose a threat to public health before they can develop into a global emergency. The Government has made £20million available from the UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) to fund the team over five years.

Public Health Minister, Nicola Blackwood, said: ‘Ebola shook the world and brave experts from the UK led the global response in Sierra Leone. The ability to deploy emergency support to investigate and respond to disease outbreaks within 48 hours will save lives, prevent further outbreaks and cement the UK’s position as a leader in global health security.’

Dr James Rubin and Professor Neil Greenberg from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) will work in collaboration with consultant clinical psychologists from the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, including Drs Elaine Hunter, Idit Albert and Alison Beck, Head of Psychology and Psychotherapy for the Trust.

Dr James Rubin, who is Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Emerging Health Risks at King’s College London, said: ‘Infectious disease outbreaks and other disasters can have a long-term impact on the mental health of people who come into contact with them, including people directly affected by traumatic incidents, their relatives and local and international responders. It is essential that these mental health effects are considered and addressed in any response.

‘King’s has substantial expertise in this area, and we are delighted to be collaborating with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and PHE on this important new initiative. Our contribution to the team will include co-creating psychological support for people who have been affected by traumatic incidents, their families and responders, as well as building the capacity and capability of local mental health services through training.’

Find out more on the GOV.UK website.

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