RCDM Birmingham

RCDM Birmingham

The Royal Center for Defence Medicine main website can be hold here.

The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) was opened on the 2 April 2001 by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal. Army, Royal Air Force (RAF) and Navy nurses work within the unit and throughout the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHBFT),(formerly the Selly Oak National Health Service Trust Hospital in Birmingham until 2010), caring for civilian and military patients. In June 2010 the RCDM relocated to the purpose built Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) from Ward S4 of the Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. RCDM dialogue image

The new £545 million Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Birmingham has brought further improvements to the care of military patients.

The striking steel and glass oval-shaped towers of Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEH) have become an instant landmark and a popular addition to the city’s skyline.The facility, which opened in 2010, has the largest single-floor critical care unit in the world, with 100 beds.Armed forces personnel are treated in single rooms or four-bed bays in a 32-bed trauma and orthopaedics ward.The ward has additional features for the use of service personnel only. These cater for their specific requirements and help to create a military environment.It has more staff (both military and civilian) than a normal NHS ward, a quiet room for relatives and a communal space for patients to gather.A dedicated physiotherapy suite is available close to the ward for military patients.

First-class care

Group Captain Wendy Williams, head of the RCDM, says the new hospital is a state-of-the-art medical facility for the people of Birmingham as well as military casualties.“Armed forces personnel injured on operations deserve the very best medical care we can provide,” she says. “The treatment they receive at QEH is first class. The creation of a military atmosphere on the ward ensures that our people are cared for in an environment that is conducive to their recovery.”

RCDM WO D Meikle

Complex injuries

QEH is the first acute hospital to be built in Birmingham for 70 years.It replaced both Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Selly Oak Hospital, offering the same patient capacity of 1,213 beds.“The new hospital will offer the clinical expertise needed to treat highly complex conflict injuries,” says University Hospitals Birmingham's (UHB) chief executive Julie Moore.

RCDM aerial view Centre of excellence

That expertise was once again recognised with the announcement that UHB was to become the home of a £20 million national trauma research centre.The centre will bring together military and civilian trauma surgeons and scientists to share medical innovations and advances in battlefield treatment.The surgeon general, Surgeon Vice Admiral Philip Raffaelli, said the Centre for Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology will benefit both military and NHS patients.

“This is a hugely important initiative that builds on the strong partnership between the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Health,” says Raffaelli, the country’s most senior medical professional. “The new centre will play a key role in gathering scientific evidence from injuries sustained in both military and civilian environments. All our patients will benefit now and in the future as new treatments are developed and shared across the NHS and the military.”

Flt Lt Amy Marsden PMRAFNS describes a new concept in which specialist nurses act as key facilitators for all military patients, MOD civilians and dependants, improving the patient experience while maintaining the "military bubble". It's a role that is already proving of great benefit to patients and relatives alike.

The key facilitator

The military nurse co-ordinator (MNC) team was created to provide an interface between all admitted military patients (battle and non-battle casualties), entitled personnel and the NHS, in order to achieve a smooth transition of care for each patient. Although this role has evolved and developed over the past few years, the team’s primary function remains the same – that is, is to "act as the key facilitator for all military patients, MOD civilians and dependants who are admitted via RCDM Birmingham". This ensures that, with the co-operation of the NHS, each and every patient receives the highest standard of care. We also see that each patient is fully aware of their own care pathway and that any subsequent treatment / rehabilitation is organised prior to discharge.

RCDM Birmingham is the only military establishment in the UK to have MNCs, owing to the high levels of military patients admitted through RCDM and the need for our unique service to assist with specialised care pathways.

Service design

The team consists of seven trained military nurses, drawn from all three services. It is imperative that the individuals selected for this role have a solid nursing background so they can provide a credible clinical service to all patients. The MNC must therefore be able to understand, interpret and explain to patients and relatives all aspects of their care. Excellent communication skills, discretion, approachability and genuine compassion are key skills. MNCs are dedicated to improving the patient experience while maintaining the "military bubble" and this role has proven of great benefit to patients and relatives alike. Due to the exceptional circumstances, it is sometimes extremely difficult for NHS workers to fully understand the environment, living conditions and stressful experiences that these military patients have endured in the battlefield. It is potentially stressful for these patients to be placed on civilian wards, isolated from their comrades, at a time when they feel most vulnerable.


Any military patient having undergone any surgical intervention or who has suffered from any neurological symptoms will require some Flt Lt Marsden RCDM degree of rehabilitation follow-up.The rehabilitation pathways for military patients are quite complex, containing many variables depending entirely on clinical condition. Therefore an additional role of the MNC is to liaise closely with the NHS physiotherapists, occupational therapists and clinical staff to ensure a robust rehab package is in place prior to discharge. This information is collated by the MNCs and passed on to the most appropriate rehabilitation facility, both in the UK and abroad. This system saves a great deal of time, enabling the patient to be referred and to commence rehabilitation in a timely fashion. Ultimately the aim is for all patients to start on the road to recovery and regain full fitness in the most realistic time frame.

A family affair

We also do not underestimate the amount of time MNCs might dedicate to patients' relatives. Receiving the news that a loved one has been injured in battle is both shocking and deeply upsetting. MNCs are always there to provide support to relatives at this difficult time, thus freeing up specialist nurses on the ward to continue with their care.Explaining treatments, providing information, listening to their concerns and involving them in the decision-making process is part of the MNC's everyday role. This has proven to releive a great amount of stress and anxiety for all involved.Working closely with other military welfare providers available at RCDM is also a high priority to ensure a fully rounded care package is maintained.The success of this team is undoubtedly strengthened through solid links with the NHS. This relationship has proved pivotal in providing our Armed Forces and dependants with the best standard of care – physically, clinically and emotionally.

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