Medical repatriation of British diplomats resident overseas.J Travel Med. 2000 Mar-Apr; 7(2):64-9.JT
The aim of this study was to analyse medical evacuations and short tours (collectively known as medevacs) in British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff and dependents residing overseas. Further aims were to look for groups with a disproportionate number of medical evacuations/short tours, and to identify events which may have been predictable in retrospect. For the purposes of this study, a medical evacuation was defined as a journey to the UK or an appropriate regional referral center for medical treatment or review, and a medical short tour was an early termination of posting for medical reasons.
The medical records of all staff and dependents who had been medically evacuated/short toured in 1995 were retrospectively analysed. Information collected included demographic details, whether the medevac was an emergency or a predicted necessity, why the medevac was required, the diagnosis, and the time from medical clearance to medevac.
In 1995, 160 medevacs involving 137 individuals were authorized. This represented 3.08% of individuals overseas, with only 0.4% of individuals posted overseas being evacuated with new medical events within 1 year of medical clearance. The proportion of medevacs for staff was significantly higher than for dependents (spouses and children), and staff in their 20s and fast-stream diplomats (young "high-flyers" with a university education) were over-represented in the evacuee group. Non-physical problems were predominant in the latter groups. The main reason for evacuation (70%) was that medical facilities were considered unsuitable, and just over half of the medevacs (51%) were considered by the investigating team to have been unpredictable.
Only a small percent of individuals posted overseas required medevac. The likelihood of evacuation was significantly higher in staff when compared to dependents, and certain grades/age groups appeared to be over-represented in the evacuee group. These groups are possibly more vulnerable, particularly to non-physical problems, and this is a potential area for future research. A prospective study of medical events overseas is proposed to see if these results are reproduced. If these findings are confirmed, medical clearance and FCO posting procedures may need to be altered for groups which are identified as being vulnerable.