5 times when it’s vital to repatriate a sick patient

Transporting a sick patient to a foreign hospital is a big undertaking. For experienced repatriation companies like EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation, it’s all part of the job. We organise hundreds of medical transports every year, from all corners of the globe, so we know how swift and simple it can be. But for families who are considering an international ambulance service for the first time, the whole process can be seriously daunting. There are so many details to think about, there are so many different repatriation companies out there – and of course there are the costs to consider too. For all these reasons, family members often find themselves in a quandary – should they keep the patient where they are? Or should they take them back home (or abroad to a foreign hospital) for their treatment? How do you begin to make the decision? Every situation is different, of course, but there are times when repatriating a patient really is the right course of action. Here are the top five reasons:

5 times vital

When the hospital care isn’t good enough

Healthcare systems differ enormously around the world. A 2014 analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit scored 161 countries by their health outcomes for patients. The results ranged from a high of 98.4 (out of 100) in Japan to just 13 at the other end of the table (Sierra Leone). Standards of hygiene, nursing care and treatment simply aren’t the same everywhere – and in many hospitals in developing countries, they are simply inadequate. If your colleague or loved one is being treated poorly by their current medical team, it’s time to get them out.

When they can’t get the right treatment

Poor medical care isn’t the only thing that affects patient outcomes. Sometimes the consultants, surgeons, equipment and techniques aren’t available where they’re currently being treated. If your patient needs specialist cancer care or heart surgery, for example, they may need to source it in another country – Germany, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands, amongst others, are all known for the high standard and availability of their specialist medical care.

When the care is confusing

When a loved one gets sick, getting clear information about what’s happening and how they’re going to be treated is absolutely vital – both for their sake and for yours. Unfortunately, as we’ve found time and again with our patients, this doesn’t always happen when they’re in a foreign hospital. Often, that’s due to the language barrier; they can’t understand the doctors, or they can’t make themselves properly understood. Sometimes there are cultural barriers. And sometimes the hospital’s communication just isn’t great. These things add huge stress when stress is the last thing you need.

When their condition deteriorates

How urgent is the patient’s situation? This isn’t always easy to answer. Accident-and-emergency scenarios are often time-sensitive, of course – if your loved one is in intensive care, they obviously need round-the-clock treatment. When a patient is initially stable in hospital but then starts to deteriorate, however, the situation gets much more complicated. This is something we’ve seen a lot recently with COVID-19, where a patient who seems to be recovering suddenly takes a turn for the worse. It’s why we advise all COVID-positive patients to go back home for treatment as soon as possible.

When they simply need to be with their family

The truth is that sick patients are almost always better off being close to their loved ones – for emotional support, food and supplies, help around the home or hospital, and any number of other reasons. When patients fall ill abroad, however, that’s sometimes extremely difficult, if not impossible. Sometimes family members can’t get abroad to be with their relative, particularly with the current barriers to travel with COVID. Sometimes it’s impractical or too expensive to stay out for the whole period of their treatment or hospitalisation. In these situations, getting them home is sometimes the only viable option.


If you find yourself in one of these situations, don’t despair. We can help – even if you just need to talk to us about what you’re going through and how a repatriation would work. We can quickly explore the best route and type of transport – by road, air ambulance or medical escort on a regular flight. Our team of qualified medics can quickly assess your patient’s medical condition and whether the care they’re currently receiving is inadequate. We can make sure you have an interpreter or local language expert alongside you if you need one. We can even send you lists of recommended private hospitals and specialists around the world.

In almost all cases, whatever you’re facing, we can find a way to get your loved one home.

For a free, no-obligation quote, click to our quick cost calculator. Or contact the team direct on our 24/7 hotline. We’ll be delighted to help you.

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