A MAN from Somerset has been appointed commanding officer of a an army hospital and medical regiment.

The county is home to the 40 Commando Royal Marines and RNAS Yeovilton, many colleagues and patients of Somerset’s NHS have strong links to the armed forces.

An estimated 55,000 armed forces personnel live in Somerset, which means about 10% of the patient population come from a military background.

Professor Dave Thomas, from Somerset, has been part of the armed forces community for over 30 years, and works as director of nursing strategy and transformation and chief nursing information officer at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.

Also a British Army Reservist, Dave was appointed commanding officer of 243 Multi-role Medical Regiment on December 1 2023.

Dave has been a nurse for 34 years, and first arrived at Somerset FT to support the deputy chief nurse role for a while, before arriving at his current role.

“I’m so proud and humbled to have been selected in this prestigious role for 243 MMR,” he said.

“As an officer we serve to lead, and when we go through Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, we stick to that motto – all about serving our unit.

“Not everyone gets this opportunity, so I’m thrilled! I think being in this role will help to bring a different perspective to our own organisation (Somerset FT) as well, and I’ve had lots of support from colleagues, including our executive team.

“In my nursing background I specialise in trauma, but my experience hasn’t always been in the NHS, as in 2007-09 I took a few years out to work full time in the Army medical services.

“I’m already part of the 243 Wessex Field Hospital, but my new command role will oversee its transition into a new multi-role medical regiment, which comes into effect in January 2024.

“It’ll be a much larger regiment with an additional 100 personnel, of which we need to fill gaps over the next year – a huge recruitment drive!

“While the regiment is currently purely a field hospital, it will soon include paramedics, ambulances, combat medical technicians, drivers, and chefs, covering the whole patient experience, from wounding through to hospital care.

“We cover the entire south west, from Gloucestershire to Truro, across to Portsmouth and up to Swindon – a huge area of responsibility that has four squadrons within it.

“As a vital part of the British Army, we may go abroad for an overseas exercise, or we could be tasked to support any conflict zone, depending on what the requirement is.

“We go through stages of when we’re ready to be deployed, with a cycle of 3-4 years where we could either be the deployable unit, or the reserve unit behind that.

“The world is an unstable place at the moment, so the requirement for our services could be pretty soon, though hopefully not, of course!”