Hampstead becomes UK’s ‘front line’ of defence against Ebola outbreak

13:00 07 August 2014

'We're well equipped to deal with any Ebola infection' say Olly Carpeter and consultant Dr Stephen Mepham in the Royal Free's infectious disease unit. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email

Hampstead has become a front line of defence against the potential spread of Ebola – with the Royal Free Hospital having the country’s only two beds fully equipped to deal with infections.

The hospital in Pond Street has the UK’s only fully operational unit of its kind to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease, after NHS England admitted beds at a secondary unit in Newcastle “were not yet ready”.

Doctors at the Royal Free’s Infectious Diseases Unit said the risk to the UK remained small but said plans to transform other parts of the hospital into isolation wards had been made should more than two infected patients arrive for treatment.

Dr Stephen Mepham, one of the unit’s infectious diseases consultants, said: “This is an unprecedented outbreak and the biggest the world has had to deal with.

“Normally outbreaks would have petered out by now [but] west African countries have a lack of resources to properly deal with the disease. We have beds to treat two patients and should there be more infections we would create an overspill ward.

“You could make a whole ward dedicated to treating Ebola, but I think that would be overkill. We’ve never had Ebola here. There’s obviously a balance to be struck.

“But residents in the UK shouldn’t be concerned. We’re well equipped to deal with any Ebola infection.”

Two infected American aid workers were flown to the US from Liberia this week to be treated in secure units similar to those at the Royal Free.

They are two of 1,300 thought to be infected. The illness has a 50 to 90 per cent mortality rate, no known cure and has killed almost 900 in this outbreak.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned its spread “is moving faster than our efforts to control it”.

Should a UK national be infected with Ebola while abroad, they may be transported by the RAF and taken to Hampstead for treatment at the Royal Free.

A “less used” area of the hospital would then be shut down, Dr Mepham said, as the patient is transported to a ward where there are two beds surrounded by isolator tents, air pressure units and full body suits.

While concerns have been raised over the lack of training given to border staff to spot signs of infected travellers, no cases of Ebola have ever been reported in the UK. The country’s record of dealing with the threat from infectious diseases in the past has been praised.

But attention has been focused in recent weeks on the perceived failure of global health policies.

Dr Mepham added: “It is perhaps an indictment on the international community that the countries in West Africa haven’t had the resources to properly deal with the crisis.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 17:56
Squatters at 156 West End Lane in West Hampstead are evicted

Squatters have left empty former council offices in West Hampstead peacefully on Saturday morning after bailiffs arrived.

Yesterday, 15:11
Evidence for the trial

A woman from Crouch Hill has been disqualified from owning animals for life after keeping dogs in cages stacked on top of each other nearly every day.

Yesterday, 12:14
Neelu Berry

An activist making claims of satanic abuse at a Hampstead church could face three new charges of witness intimidation.

Yesterday, 14:03
Claudia Tabitha, 23, Big Issue vendor. Photo: Polly Hancock

A pregnant Big Issue vendor has been overwhelmed by generous offers of support from local parents.

Sunday, November 29, 2015
Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society members. From left Amanda Carrara, Chris Currer, Mark Afford, Miriam Levin and Dave Winskill.

The fight for community ownership of Hornsey Town Hall continues, even though the council officially invited bids from developers last week.

Sunday, November 29, 2015
Expedition 45 Commander SCOTT KELLY took this selfie photograph during a 7-hour and 16-minute spacewalk. This was the first spacewalk for both Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren; the two will venture outside the International Space Station for the second time on next Friday. Kelly becomes the U.S. astronaut who has lived in space the longest during a single U.S. spaceflight, and on Monday, Nov. 2, the crew celebrates the 15th year of a continuous human presence in space aboard the station. (Credit Image: © NASA/ZUMA Wire)

Young gardeners are preparing for a close encounter of the herbaceous kind when they attempt to grow seeds from outer space.

Sunday, November 29, 2015
Keir Starmer arrives with his wife Victoria at the election count. Picture: Polly Hancock

It’s been six months since Sir Keir Starmer won the safe Labour seat of Holborn and St Pancras by a huge majority.

Saturday, November 28, 2015
Volunteers plant a new herbaceous border to mark Waterlow Park's 125th anniversary. Picture: Polly Hancock

Volunteers armed with gardening forks and spades replanted a herbaceous border to mark a Highgate park’s 125th anniversary.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


Nike Trainers

Nike’s motto is ‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.’ With this in mind it’s no surprise why Nike is the preferred training gear for most A-list athletes. Get an extra boost in your run or height in your jump with £500 to spend on Nike trainers.

MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder