OXFORDSHIRE medics who went to West Africa to battle Ebola have won medals for bravery.

Dr Laura Lopez Pascua and Dr Bethan McDonald volunteered to help tackle the deadly outbreak of the virus when it hit the international headlines in 2014.

The pair, who work for Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust, signed up to use their skills to help patients.

Now, more than a year later, the UK Government has given them Ebola Medal Awards for Service in West Africa.

The medics were presented with their medals by trust chairwoman Dame Fiona Caldicott in front of the hospital’s board of directors.

Dame Fiona said: “We would like to commend their efforts and their work. The medals specifically recognise those who tackled the crisis and dangerous environment in West Africa. It’s a matter of great pride to the trust.”

Dr Pascua, a genomics clinical scientist trainee at the medical genetics laboratories, and Dr McDonald found it a difficult but rewarding experience.

Dr Pascua said: “It was a really rewarding experience, but very difficult.

“We are very lucky to have the NHS. I always knew that, but being there I saw how very trivial health problems that we can deal with are almost a life sentence there.”

Dr McDonald, a speciality registrar in public health, added: “It was challenging, emotionally difficult at times, but working with a great bunch of people.”

The pair spent five weeks each working in a laboratory in Sierra Leone, testing blood samples.

Dr Pascua said she was amazed to see the co-operation between the country’s public health, charities and NGOs.

She added: “I only have good things to say about Sierra Leone. The country is absolutely beautiful and the people are extremely warm and welcoming.”

Dr McDonald said: “My experience in Sierra Leone was enlightening, challenging and rewarding.

“We were warmly welcomed by the local population and the Sierra Leonean health workers and outbreak responders.”

The medals were announced in June, the first time a medal has been created to recognise those who have tackled a humanitarian crisis, and 3,000 people so far have won it.

Chloe Eaton, clinical scientist in microbiology at the trust, was also awarded the medal, but has since left to work in Cambridge.