MEDICS from York's military field hospital are treating their patients with the help of a new Bulldog field ambulance.

Soldiers from 34 Field Hospital, Royal Army Medical Corps, are serving in Iraq as part of the multinational peace support operation, having deployed from their base at Strensall at the end of May.

They are running a 200-bed field hospital providing healthcare for the military.

The latest member of the health team, the Bulldog ambulance, is armed with a 7.62mm general purpose machine gun for the protection of its crew and casualties.

The vehicle is designed to fit stretchers and carry all the medical equipment needed to stabilise and treat casualties during evacuation to a helicopter evacuation point or the nearest British Forces treatment facility with a doctor.

The York-based medics are working with clinical staff from all three armed services based throughout the UK, but mainly with 16 Close Support Medical Squadron based in Tidworth, Wiltshire. Known as the UK Medical Group, the 300 soldiers provide medical support to the troops in Iraq.

"We provide the British Military Hospital in Basra and also front-line medical treatment and evacuation to troops deployed in the Basra area and Maysan Province," said Major Dave Woodward of Strensall, who is second-in-command of the UK Medical Group.

"The ultimate aim of front-line evacuation is to ensure casualties receive life-saving battlefield advanced trauma support within an hour, something we are consistently achieving," said Major Woodward.

During its first month of use in Iraq, the Bulldog has proved its worth on the ground, negotiating cross-country terrain and also demonstrating its ability to negotiate through the often narrow streets of Basra to extract casualties if the need arises.

Corporal Caroline Storm, 25, of Appleton Roebuck, York, a former pupil of Tadcaster Grammar School, is a military nurse with the UK Medical Group and part of a Bulldog ambulance crew.

"Working out here is very diverse. I have had the opportunity to broaden my clinical skills," said Caroline.

"I enjoy being part of a regiment on operations and see so much more than I would working in an NHS environment. Medics are often not really regarded until someone needs them. Every day we are reminded how important our role is out here.

"I always try to make the best of any situation and keep the morale of my buddies high. I do miss family and friends though, and going for a drink."