RAF Medical Services provide care for service personnel and their families on RAF bases, in National Health Service hospitals and on operations overseas. In addition to their medical training personnel also receive special to arms training to prepare them for the military role in which they are to deploy.
The RAF Medical Services are currently divided into six areas:
- Primary Healthcare;
- Secondary Healthcare;
- Tactical Medical Wing;
- Infection Prevention and Control;
- Occupational Health; and
- Mental Health.
Primary Healthcare Regional Teams are stationed at medical centres across the UK and internationally, providing services personnel and their families with high quality medical care.
The RAF provides secondary healthcare services from a number of Military Defence Hospital Units (MDHU) and these include:
- Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (RCDM Birmingham);
- Queen Alexandra Hospital (MDHU Portsmouth);
- Peterborough City Hospital (MDHU Peterborough);
- Derriford Hospital (MDHU Derriford);
- John Radcliffe Hospital Oxford ; and
- The Princess Mary’s Hospital (TMPH) Cyprus.
Tactical Medical Wing
The role of the Tactical Medical Wing (TMW) is to train, equip and deploy RAF medical service personnel as force elements in support of operations and exercises and to provide worldwide Aero-medical Evacuation service for the UK military.
Personnel with the TMW come from a variety of branches and trades from across the RA and the TMW is currently configured into four squadrons:
- Operations and Logistics Squadron: the role of this squadron is to plan, force generate, sustain and regenerate trained RAF medical services force elements; provide logistical support to operations, exercises, aero-medical evacuations, and to provide medical & dental servicing support.
- Aero-medical Evacuation Squadron: provides in-flight medical care, utilising multi-disciplinary teams, to effect the expedient and safe transfer of patients by air from any location worldwide; whilst providing training and maintaining logistic and governance processes.
- Training Squadron: provides the RAF Medical Services with validated pre-employment and pre-deployment training.
- DARTS (Deployable Aero-medical Evacuation Response Teams): provides the full spectrum of short notice Aero-medical operational support requirements including medical support, casualty evacuation and tactical/strategic Aero-medical evacuation in support of the UK’s foreign and security policy.
Infection Prevention and Control
With the appointment of a Director of Infection Prevention and Control (DIPC) in March 2009, the vision for the Defence Medical Services (DMS) was to maintain equivalent standards of infection prevention and control to those laid down for the NHS in the Health and Social Care Act 2008, and to address infection and infection control issues associated with combat casualties. This role further provides the strategic leadership, direction, coordination and management of the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) function within DMS.
The establishment of an IPC Flight as part of Headquarters Tactical Medical Wing (HQ TMW) was pivotal to meet the strategic aim of effective IPC. The reduction of Health Care Acquired Infection (HCAI) through effective IPC practice relates directly to maximising patient safety and is a fundamental output of effective IPC delivery.
The IPC Flight operates closely with DIPC, HQ Air Command and RAF Primary Healthcare Units, supporting those providing healthcare in the UK and on deployment. It addresses HCAI IPC challenges within RAF stations and units, and on deployment. Additionally, it is intrinsically involved with key tactical and strategic aspects of HQ TMW. This includes ensuring efficient management of IPC principles within the HQ TMW formation and the Air Transportable Isolator (ATI) capability.
The ATI can be used for any patient (military or civilian) and is designed to provide a completely closed environment to protect healthcare workers and aircrew and prevent aircraft contamination. The escorting team is referred to as the Deployable Air Transportable Isolator Team (DAIT). The team is comprised of both military and civilian subject matter experts from the London Royal Free Hospital.
The RAF Occupational Health (OH) service is concerned with the prevention, identification and management of health issues relating to employment, providing specialist advice to Senior Medical Officers, Engineering Officers, Station Execs, Line Managers and Station Health and Safety Officers.
The RAF OH service provides the wider RAF with a number of services:
- Routine OH visits;
- Individual casework for an occupational medicine opinion;
- Advice on Medical Employment Standards;
- Placements of individuals with restricted work capacity in appropriate work;
- Advice on workplace health issues, hazards and work-related ill health;
- Occupational health promotion activities;
- Training activities;
- Telephone advice;
- Functional assessments;
- Advice on workplace visits, assessments and health surveillance programmes; and
- Review of long-term sickness absences.
The UK has had a Psychiatric Division, in various guises, since its genesis in 1914 when a Hospital was established in le Touquet, France, to deal with the large numbers of soldiers evacuated from the British Expeditionary Force with ‘nervous and mental shock’.
Things have moved on considerably from these early beginnings. Defence Mental Health now embraces all three services and is utilised in all areas that British Forces see service.
Community Psychiatric services are provided to all large garrison areas where British Forces are serving. This service is enhanced through support of military operations in the field, air evacuation and naval support roles.
The Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) provides the RAF with its nursing workforce able to deliver high quality care, whilst being responsive to the dynamic nature of RAF Nursing in peacetime and on operations.
There are a number of roles for both officers and other ranks within the RAF medical services, as illustrated below.
As a professionally qualified officer the initial officer training course is 11 weeks in duration, based at the RAF College Cranwell. The course provides a thorough grounding in RAF knowledge and military skills.
- Biomedical Scientist;
- Medical Officer;
- Medical Support Officer;
- Medical Support Officer (Physiotherapist);
- Nursing Officer; and
- Dental Officer.
Other Ranks Roles
All RAF medical personnel must complete basic recruit training before beginning their trade (medical) training.
- Environmental Health Technician;
- Operating Department Practitioner;
- Pharmacy Technician;
- Dental Nurse;
- Dental Technician;
- Registered Nurse (Adult);
- Registered Nurse (Mental Health); and
- Student Nurse (Adult).