Sheffield doctor who fought ebola in Africa awarded MBE

Dr Charles Heatley
Dr Charles Heatley
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A Sheffield doctor who travelled to Africa to help fight the ebola epidemic has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list.

Dr Charles Heatley, who works at Birley Health Centre, spent five weeks in Sierra Leone over Christmas 2014 as part of a first wave of 30 NHS volunteers fighting an outbreak of the deadly disease which claimed more than 9,000 lives.

Charles Heatley with Agnes, a Community Health officer at Kerrytown Ebola Treatment Centre, Sierra Leone December 2014.

Charles Heatley with Agnes, a Community Health officer at Kerrytown Ebola Treatment Centre, Sierra Leone December 2014.

He has been awarded the MBE for services to primary care both for his work in Africa and in Sheffield, where he has been serving patients for 23 years.

As part of his work in West Africa, Dr Heatley worked in an ebola treatment Centre, run by the charity Save the Children, in Kerry Town, on the coast just west of Freetown, assisting in the medical care of ebola patients, giving them the best possible chance of surviving the disease.

The father-of-three is now back in his full-time role as a GP and senior partner at Birley Health Centre and is also clinical director for elective care at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group.

He said: “I was surprised and delighted to receive an MBE. It’s all about working with teams, whether in my practice, with the commissioning group or with the team in Sierra Leone.

“It was a privilege to take NHS values to another health care system and to be part of the front line helping critically ill ebola patients and their families.”

He told The Star in February he had been inspired to get involved with the relief efforts in Sierra Leone after hearing about an appeal for medical volunteers by the Department for International Development.

Dr Heatley and other British staff worked alongside medical professionals from Sierra Leone and Cuba.

In searing temperatures that could reach up to 38C, doctors had to put on layers of specialist equipment before treating patients.

The protective equipment included a full bodysuit, wellies, two pairs of gloves, a mask, surgical hat, apron, hood, visor and goggles.

He said the need for protective clothing and the extreme heat made the job of caring for suffering patients highly challenging.

“It was incredibly difficult to do the most basic care,” he said.

“If you only had an hour, you had to plan out so carefully what you were going to do beforehand.

“I was treating everything from relatively minor illnesses to people who were dying with dreadful diarrhoea and vomiting.”

Colleagues today paid tribute to him as news of his MBE was announced.

Maddy Ruff, accountable officer at NHS Sheffield CCG said: “I am thrilled that Charles has received a Queen’s honour. As well as being a great GP, he also goes above and beyond, contributing so much time and effort to develop health care for people right across the city.”

Dr Zak McMurray, GP and medical director at NHS Sheffield CCG, said: “Charles has worked tirelessly with his local community, creating an exceptional local practice, delivering services to a diverse local community with considerable ill health and deprivation.

“He is a GP who epitomises the ethos of our NHS, in delivering high quality care to his local community, working to improve citywide services as a commissioner and in volunteering to work in Sierra Leone to fight ebola. At all times Charles puts his patients and population first.”

A fertility expert who has combined pioneering research with television stardom has been awarded an MBE.

Professor Allan Pacey, from The University of Sheffield’s department of oncology and head of andrology at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has written 137 papers on ground-breaking research into male fertility.

He was made a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 2014 and is also well known for his work on TV shows The Great Sperm Race and Make Me a Baby.

Prof Pacey said: “When I received the letter, it was a complete surprise and I was shaking with shock. I needed to have a sit down and compose myself before I could speak.

“It came completely out of the blue and I was just humbled that people had taken the time and trouble to nominate me.”

Prof Pacey said teaching students the ‘wonders of reproductive medicine’ was one of two rewarding parts of his job.

He added: “The second is the work I do with men with cancer facing difficult decisions about their fertility. I’ve seen some of the men regularly over the past 20 years and to see them finally become fathers, either with or without our help, is really rewarding.

“There can be both joy and tears sometimes.”

And he said it was the people of Sheffield and colleagues who kept him working in the city.

“Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?” he said.