Thursday, 10 January 2008

Wounded put at further risk from untested blood

The medical checks which are currently being undertaken on 18 British servicemen injured on the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan have been necessary because the blood supplied to them at US army field hospitals had not been properly tested. Blood is normally screened for HIV, hepatitis and other diseases before it is used for transfusion; in particularly critical situations donated blood is validated after transfusion. In the case of the 18 British soldiers, retrospective tests were not carried out by the US authorities. The MoD has said the risk of infection is minimal and that the soldiers would almost certainly have died if the emergency blood transfusions had not gone ahead.
The close co-operation between the medical teams of the various coalition forces engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan has undoubtedly led to the saving of many lives. The US army medical corps has frequently provided life-saving treatment to injured Britsh servicemen and many alive today have much to thank the US army for.
The Royal Army Medical Corps, in particular the Close Support Medical Regiments and the Medical Emergency Response Teams, should also be applauded for the world class service they provide to soldiers injured on the frontline. Their specialist skills together with recent innovations in the treatment of war casualties - such as QuikClot powder which can stop bleeding in moments, "super bandages" that can stem a spurting artery and the availability of handheld computers providing information drawn from numerous medical text books - have meant that the survival rate for even those suffering from multiple traumas has reached a very high level. Transport teams have also radically reduced the time it takes to evacuate the wounded to field hospitals which themselves are now equipped to the same if not higher standards as those of emergency departments back in the UK .

What is of concern is not the standard of the care provided, it is that procedures had not been followed and that consequently wounded soldiers had been put at further unnecessary risk. This sort of thing must undermine the confidence of the troops in the emergency medical care they rely on and can do little to help Anglo-US relations already damaged by previous "friendly fire" incidents.

Link> Telegraph: British at risk from contaminated US blood
Link> MoD Oracle: Iraq Casualties Tested for HIV
Link> MoD: UK Service Personnel reassured
Link> MoD: Defence Medical Services