Repatriation vs medical repatriation: what does it mean?

The recent collapse of holiday maker, Thomas Cook has brought the word ‘repatriation’ into the headlines. Thousands of British travellers as well as company crew are stranded throughout the world, waiting for arrangements to be made for them to be brought back to the UK – a massive logistical challenge. But repatriations happen all the time. Some of us might be familiar with the word in a military context, but often repatriations happen for medical reasons – in that case we speak about ‘medical repatriation’.

Repatriation vs medical repatriation what does it mean 1400x933

What is medical repatriation?

A medical repatriation involves the transport of a patient back to their home country by qualified medical professionals to ensure the patient’s wellbeing and safety during travel. For instance, medical repatriation from the Canary Islands or repatriation from Spain might be necessary. Often medical repatriations are organised by insurance companies on behalf of their clients when they have suffered an accident or have fallen ill abroad. Insurers will engage a medical repatriation service who will make all the arrangements and bring the patient back home safely.

How does medical repatriation work?

A medical coordinator – either at the insurance company or the repatriation service – will determine the best and safest way for the patient to be transported when medical evacuation is needed. This can be by road in a specially modified, long-distance ambulance or by air in a dedicated air ambulance or with a medical escort on a commercial flight. Which mode of transport is best in your situation largely depends on the distance and the patient’s condition. A team of medical professionals will travel to the patient, prepare them for the journey and accompany them to their chosen hospital back home, providing them with the care they need.

All details will generally be taken care off by the repatriation service: EMS offer a bed-to-bed service, meaning that they take responsibility for all the practicalities, from liaising with doctors in both hospitals, medical records, translations and paperwork, to travel arrangements, bookings and customs documents. We make sure a bed is waiting for the patient back home and will only leave once we are sure a successful handover has taken place.

How can I arrange a medical repatriation?

It’s possible to engage a repatriation service privately – although not all repatriation companies work independently from insurers; EMS does. If for whatever reason your insurer is not making the arrangements for you, you can contact us and engage our services directly.

After speaking with you and getting a good understanding of your situation, our medical team will conduct an independent assessment of the patient’s case and advise on the best way to bring them home. We always aim to provide you with a quote within the hour so you know the costs involved. Once you decide to engage us, we get to work immediately. Our expertise and network of trusted medical professionals often allow us to leave on the same day. We will always select a team of qualified nurses, doctors and/or paramedics with the right specialisms for your situation to ensure the patient’s needs are met.


If you would like any further information or would just like to chat through your situation and the medical repatriation process with someone to get a clearer picture of what’s involved and what your options are, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are always happy to help. You can also request a free quote to get a better idea of the financial implications.

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