Fit-to-fly – Emergency Repatriations

When a patient is in critical condition because of inadequate care in a foreign hospital, an emergency repatriation is needed. But what if the patient is not fit to travel?



EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation provide medical transport in urgent cases as well as non-urgent cases. Sometimes the patient’s condition is not life-threatening, think of a broken limb after a skiing accident. Even then people sometimes still prefer to be treated in a hospital back home. That can be because of language barriers, the strangeness of unfamiliar surroundings or simply because they want to be near family.

In other cases the decision to repatriate is one of life and death. At such time we’re talking about emergency repatriations. When hygiene levels in a foreign hospital are dangerously low, when the standard of patient care is inadequate or the treatment plan simply wrong, because of misdiagnosis or miscommunication, it becomes imperative for a patient to be repatriated.

But is it safe? An emergency repatriation, be it by road ambulance or through the air, brings risks of its own. That’s why EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation always carefully assess each patient’s medical records before planning an emergency repatriation. We offer various repatriation services, by road or by air and will choose the best way depending on the patient’s condition. When we arrive, we conduct our own medical examination to make sure that it is safe for the patient to be transported.


But what if the patient is not fit to travel? In that case we work with the patient, using our own equipment and try to get them ready for transport. In a recent case, a patient suffering from pneumonia and septic shock in a hospital in Portugal had been in ICU for twelve days. Instead of getting better, his health deteriorated every day. The family remembers,

“[When] we contacted [the office]… [they] could tell us immediately what was wrong and what the doctors in Portugal had failed to do to help my father. [When the team] arrived in the hospital they saw that [my father] was too weak to be transported and intubated him immediately to give his body rest – something the doctors there should have done long ago. [They] would reassess whether he was fit to travel the next day. Thankfully that was the case and after a journey by road ambulance of 24 hours, they arrived in the Netherlands, where [the office team] had secured a bed in a hospital close to where we live. If my father had stayed in Portugal for two more days, on the treatment they were giving him, in all likelihood, he wouldn’t have made it.”


For us at EMS patient-safety is paramount. Before conducting a medical transport, be it a non-urgent case or an emergency repatriation, we always make sure the patient is fit-to-travel. If you need to get back home, but are unsure if you, or a loved one are fit-to-travel, don’t hesitate to contact us anytime, by phone (+44 20 3514 6797), or email ( Even if it’s just to talk through any questions or concerns you may have, do please get in touch. We can help.

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