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Casualty care

The delivery of medical care to injured soldiers in Afghanistan is considered to be the best ever provided to deployed forces. The number of soldiers that have survived life-threatening injuries is the best in recorded history and testament to the expertise of the medical staff involved.

All soldiers are trained and equipped to provide First Aid

Soldiers work in small teams. Each team has a Medic who has received extra training and who carries additional medical equipment. The Medic can apply a tourniquet, maintain an airway to help a casualty breathe and prioritise patients for evacuation according to medical need.

Larger teams of soldiers, or soldiers engaged in high risk activities, will have the support of one or more Army Medics, also known as Combat Medical Technicians (CMT). Each undergoes 30 weeks of medical training to prepare them for taking control of casualty situations. CMTs carry their own medical equipment.

Soldiers also have access to a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO), who is able to provide the same level of medical attention as a General Practitioner. RMOs are trained in the management of trauma and their presence ensures the most seriously injured receive highly skilled medical attention at the earliest opportunity.

Sometimes injured soldiers require care which can only be provided in a hospital. In Afghanistan, the Army has a military hospital at Camp Bastion. The medical staff are all qualified specialists and have received additional training to prepare them for the types of injuries seen on military operations. The hospital at Camp Bastion has a worldwide reputation for excellent performance in the management of the very seriously injured.

The hospital is not designed to hold patients for an extended period of time. Once stable, most casualties are flown to the UK by the RAF's Aeromedical Evacuation teams of doctors and nurses and transported to a new purpose-designed military ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Casualty Care procedure

Before beginning an operation Commanders make plans, including what needs to be done if a soldier becomes unwell or injured. If a soldier is injured, the priority is to make the situation safe. This might mean defeating the enemy or moving the casualty to safety.

Once safe, the casualty will receive treatment from a Buddy, Team Medic, CMT or RMO. Initial treatment is to stop bleeding and maintain the airway.

casualty procedures

When a helicopter is needed

An assessment of the soldier's condition is made and if additional care is needed a request for assistance is made.

The request for assistance is made by giving the casualty's location, nature of injury and priority for treatment. The information is quickly analysed and a response issued. If injuries are life-threatening, a helicopter will be launched. If the casualty is close to the hospital, an ambulance will be sent.

If a helicopter is launched it might be necessary to move the casualty so that it can land safely.

The helicopter medical team, also called a Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), will then fly the casualty to the hospital. They often use a Chinook which is large enough to allow treatment to continue whilst in flight. The MERT will also call the hospital with details of the casualty's injuries so they can prepare.

Camp Bastion hospital

When the casualty arrives at the hospital a different team takes over, initially in the Emergency Department where a full range of equipment is available.

If surgery is required, it is not delayed - the hospital has a large operating room with four operating tables staffed by trauma management specialists.

After surgery the patient is transferred to an intensive care unit where the staff ensure the casualty remains stable.

Military hospital Camp Bastion

What happens next

The RAF Aeromedical Evacuation team also plan the casualty's eventual movement back to the UK. Sometimes a casualty will be on the way to the UK within 48 hours of injury.