An army team has been put through their paces in Barton Stacey as they demonstrate new ways of treating the wounded on the front line.

The Royal Army Medical Corps’ 22 Field Hospital is currently undergoing training exercises at the disused army base near the A303, setting up a field hospital that can deploy anywhere in the world in five days. They are also experimenting with smaller, more agile units that can move with troops in warzones or in humanitarian missions.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Hale, the commanding officer of the Mytchett-based unit, told the Advertiser: “This is a great exercise area. It’s far enough away from our camp to make it challenging. Absolutely everything to run the hospital has had to be brought ourselves, just like if we’re on deployment.”

The army has set up its “biggest and most capable” field hospital on one of the large tarmacked areas of the site, where its hospital is designed to provide an NHS standard of care, or higher, in any country in the world.

Inside the hospital are emergency wards, an operating theatre, intensive care units and a 12-bed ward. It’s designed to be modular, allowing the hospital to be upgraded or downgraded by detaching tents from the main building.

The field hospital provides urgent care to troops before they can be evacuated away if needed, with a medic saying: “This isn’t like regular surgery, it’s damage control. We undertake the operations and then co-ordinate with other units and other nations if there is a major incident”.

Outside, a small village of support units has been established, providing everything from showers to laundry to clean water for the hospital and its staff.

A short distance away, nestled amongst the trees, the army are also testing their new pre-hospital facility, which is designed to move with a battle.

“It’s a big task to move one big hospital and most operations don’t need such a big hospital,” Lt. Col Hale said, “so a smaller unit, with around 13-17 medics, suits the situation better.”

The smaller facility is able to be moved near the front edge of a battle, with units such as the surgery, ICU and testing lab able to be detached and moved forward or back as needed. The new pre-hospital is also going through its paces on deployment, and is currently being used in the Middle East and Mali, with this training exercise “seeking to demonstrate the viability of this facility in conventional warfare.”

Other new facilities being trialled are a veterinary hospital as part of the main field hospital, as well as advances in telemedicine where doctors can be consulted from the UK to wherever the army is deployed.

It’s also being used to train up a new generation of army medics, many of whom work in NHS hospitals when they are not on deployment.

“We’re using trainee consultants to develop their skills,” one of the medical directors said. “We’ve put 25-30 casualties through to allow them to practice different levels of treatment. They’re really good at their NHS jobs but it’s essential to work in a military setting, as the knowledge moves on quite quickly and we need to keep them trained up in new teams and with military kit.”

The exercise is due to continue as the hospital is upgraded to its fullest extent, following which 22 Field Hospital will be certified to head anywhere in the world to provide medical care, whether in war or after a natural disaster.