Can we take our family doctor on a medical flight?

If you have a personal physician or private GP, it goes without saying you involve them in some of the most important decisions in your life.
So, what if you or a family member want to travel abroad on a medical flight – let’s say, for emergency paediatric surgery in America, or for specialist oncology care in a private European clinic (aka medical tourism)? You realise you need to book a medical transport company like EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation to carry out the journey safely – perhaps your own physician has even recommended it – but could your family doctor come with you?

Can we take our family doctor

The simple answer

The short answer is: yes, it’s almost always possible for a family doctor to accompany their patient on an international transport. We simply need to confirm there’s enough room on our aircraft and ground transportation vehicles before you fly. If you plan to travel on a regular commercial flight with an EMS Medical Escort, we can book your physician onto the flight. If you’re using one of our medium-care air ambulances, there will be plenty of room – up to eight passengers can travel with your patient on this type of private jet. The main caveat comes with emergency flights by high-care air ambulance. Because these planes are highly specialised aircraft with ICU-level equipment, there’s very little spare space on board. That said, they can usually accommodate one other passenger – which could be your family doctor.

Some exceptions

There are some situations where it will be difficult or impossible for other passengers to accompany your patient on the transport. The main examples are:

Isolation flights – when your patient needs to travel in full medical isolation to avoid contamination or contagion (eg because of COVID)

ICU emergencies – in certain circumstances where we need to move at immediate notice, or carry out specialist medical treatment during the flight

If your doctor can’t travel on the flight, keep in mind that your patient will be receiving support from some of the best medical experts in international travel during their journey. Our transports are full bed-to-bed services backed by aeromedically-trained flight teams and an on-call medical director for 24/7 specialist support. There is literally no safer way to fly.

An important detail

If your physician is able to travel with us, it’s important to remember that they won’t replace the official, inflight doctor or paramedics who have been assigned to the case. One of the fundamentals of global medical transports – both for safety and insurance reasons – is that the transport company’s medical team take ultimate responsibility for their patient during the journey. (This is why the flight team have the final call on whether it’s safe to transfer your patient, even when the foreign doctors are saying they need to remain where they are.) So while your family GP can stay with you and offer support and advice, they won’t be able to stand in for our own aeromedical experts during the transport.

What to do next

If you’d like to bring your family doctor with you, the next step is to contact EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation so we can discuss the options and make it happen. You can get in touch with our Operations Team 24 hours a day, using the following contacts:

They’ll be very happy to arrange a conversation with your GP to discuss your patient’s current situation, their medical condition and any details that will be important for the journey, such as their vital statistics, specific medicines and doses they might require during the journey, and any specialist care or equipment they’ll need in-transit.

Our team take care of everything on the transport, including all tickets, connections and luggage. We’ll just need your doctor’s details so we can complete the arrangements; for example:

  • their full name, date of birth, address etc
  • a copy of their passport or resident permit
  • a visa, if necessary (Don’t have a visa? No problem: we can arrange a Visa-on-Arrival for them too)
  • baggage or equipment needs (they should be able to bring at least 20kg of hand luggage, whatever the aircraft)

Your doctor may also like to be involved in talking to the local clinic or doctors who’ll be receiving your patient at the destination. We can leave them to do that themselves, or we can put them in touch with our contacts on the ground at the receiving hospital. If you’re travelling to a home or hotel, we can make sure your family doctor goes all the way there with you.

Interested in reading more on this topic? You might find these articles helpful…

The top 5 questions about air ambulance flights

Can other passengers travel on a medical repatriation?

Meet the repatriation doctor

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