British medical personnel can volunteer to help with the Government's humanitarian emergency response to disasters overseas, under a new arrangement announced by International Development Secretary Justine Greening on Wednesday.
Doctors, nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists and other staff can now pre-register on the UK's International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR) to indicate their availability to deploy rapidly to the scene of emergencies such as tsunamis, earthquakes and floods.
It is hoped that more than 400 medical staff will be registered and trained by 2014, said Ms Greening, speaking on the anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Boxing Day tsunami which killed over 230,000 people in 14 countries.
The UKIETR was established by medical charity UK Med in 2011 and has already deployed surgical team members in support of non-governmental assistance operations in Haiti, Libya and Tunisia.
Greening's Department for International Development and the Department of Health have now incorporated the register into the UK's official overseas disaster response.
The register helps co-ordinate the deployment of volunteers, to ensure that they have the correct skills, training and experience for the specific situation being faced.
Greening said: "The UK public has always given generously to appeals in the aftermath of natural disasters overseas. And UK expert volunteers have been there at the forefront when the world needed them, following the Indian Ocean tsunami and the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.
"Now medical personnel can sign up to the UKIETR to help after serious natural disasters. This is one way the UK can help to stop problems spiralling out of control and also helps us to develop our own disaster resilience."
Professor Tony Redmond of UK Med said: "The register is a major step forwards in harnessing the skills and goodwill of UK healthcare workers and bringing them to the immediate benefit of those most in need.
"Although not its primary purpose, the experience gained in both training and deployment overseas can only reinforce our response to disasters here at home."