In Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operations, the role of medical support is crucial in providing healthcare to military and civilian personnel deployed in conflict zones and crisis areas. Medical support is vital for maintaining operational capacity and directly impacts the readiness and effectiveness of CSDP operations. Notwithstanding the substantial progress of the previous years, more effort and further steps need to be taken to improve the medical support landscape and achieve greater interoperability.
In this context, the European Defence Agency (EDA) is working towards harmonising and standardising practices, as well as promoting the interoperability of equipment, expertise, and training.
EDA's medical support work:
- analyses new areas of medical capability development and support;
- conducts field studies supported by the operational budget;
- promotes the launching of new software to enhance medical support planning and logistics
- examines the use of emerging technologies and collaborates with third parties organisations.
STATE OF PLAY
Medical Support remains a priority under Strategic Enablers and Force Multipliers, in the recently revised Capability Development Plan agreed by the 27 EU Ministers of Defence, at the EDA Steering Board on November 14, 2023. Recent changes in the EU strategic environment, lessons learned from previous experiences, and political guidance from the strategic agenda have shaped the key areas of the priority, with input from the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) and the European Union Military Staff (EUMS).
Continuous efforts are still required to address the existing gaps identified in the previous revision of the Capability Development Plan. These gaps include the need for deployable field hospitals and medical evacuation capabilities in multinational operations. The development of deployable field hospitals intended for multinational use, by integrating national assets provided as pre-identified medical modules, remains challenging. Key milestones for improvement in the coming years will include the development of common standards, facilitating collaborative procurement of commercial medical components and enhancing interoperability between Member States.
Another ongoing priority is ensuring effective Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) through the "pooling and sharing" of training facilities and courses, exchanging lessons learned and best practices regarding tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as addressing organisational costs.
Apart from the development of multinational training concepts and common standards in MEDEVAC, the use of unmanned aerial or ground systems has been identified as a priority in the CDP 2018 and continues to be important. As disruptive technologies emerge, the potential for using unmanned systems in medical support becomes more prominent.
One aspect being explored is the development of fast response capabilities using Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS). These systems could be utilised to quickly transport patients or wounded personnel from remote or perilous areas. This would not only speed up response times but also reduce the risks associated with human-operated vehicles.
Additionally, autonomous systems could be utilised to deliver critical medical supplies, provide remote medical or surgical assistance, establish situation assessment or support human doctors for surgical interventions in a hazardous environment. This could be particularly useful and timesaving in remote or disaster-stricken areas where traditional transportation methods may be impractical or unsafe.
The advancements in these technologies aim to not only lower costs but also create a risk-free environment in the theatre of operations. By reducing the reliance on valuable personnel, unmanned systems can help protect human lives and prevent the spread of infectious diseases in high-risk environments. These advancements can revolutionise the way medical support is provided in various operational environments, ultimately improving patient outcomes and saving lives.
PT MEDICAL – PROJECT TEAM MEDICAL
Medical Support to operations requires considerable resources and it is a recognised field for Multinational Pooling & Sharing activities. Project Team (PT) Medical stands as the main working body within EDA bringing together experts from the participating Member States in a medical capability area in order to identify potential fields of cooperation, assess the feasibility of cooperative activities and harmonise military needs. PT Medical facilitates a coordinated and overarching approach to all on-going and future activities in the field of medical support with the aim of:
- Increasing the exchange of information between participants on developments in medical support;
- Providing a structured approach for further work;
- Identifying potential new issues and projects to be addressed by members;
- Overseeing and shaping the work of the related Ad Hoc Working Groups;
- Ensuring coherence between the different fields of activity.
PT Medical, based on the participating Member States’ guidance, provides flexible management and recommendation concerning urgent needs and future projects of pMS.
MULTINATIONAL MODULAR MEDICAL UNIT (M3U)
Despite national capabilities, deployable field hospitals have been recognised as shortfalls for an extended period of time. The existence of national differences, including varying medical procedures, medical equipment and material or legal restrictions, renders cooperation highly complex. Given these complexities, the Multinational Modular Medical Unit (M3U) Programme aims at facilitating standardisation and interoperability in multinational medical cooperation.
The M3U Project Arrangement, signed by 15 contributing Member States (AT, BE, BG, CY, CZ, DE, EL, ES, FI, HU, IT (Lead Nation), NL, RO, SE and SI) as a Cat B project, provides the basis for fully deployable and sustainable multinational Medical Treatment Facilities (MTF) available for the full spectrum of CSDP missions and multinational engagements.
The M3U Programme complements bilateral and multilateral initiatives, avoiding unnecessary duplication and seeking for possible synergies in the same capability domain, respecting the autonomy of the EU.
Under the M3U Programme and its Management Committee, there is currently one work strand:
1. Project Management Group - Medical Treatment Facility (PMG-MTF)
As a result of EU participating Member States lack of specific medical assets, the M3U PMG – MTF has been established to deliver, by collaborative development, a Technical Specification (TS) for multinational deployable capability. In particular, this TS is aimed for a Role 2 Medical MTF – Initial Surgery Response Capability / Highly Mobile. Based on common TS, the developed assets will be provided for the seven core modules – emergency room, surgery and surgery auxiliary, specified diagnostic, patient holding, post-operative, C4I, and medical supply – for CSDP Operations and Missions or any other multinational engagement allowing their rapid and flexible integration followed by national or multinational procurement.
MULTINATIONAL MEDICAL EVACUATION TRAINING (MN MEDEVAC TRG)
The Cat B Project Multinational Medical Evacuation Training (MN MEDEVAC TRG) aims at providing a framework for the establishment of training activities and courses to facilitate standardization and interoperability. The objective is to improve readiness and ensure better conformity with the general principles of medical support within a changing multinational operational environment.
The project, which consists of 5 contributing Member States (CY, CZ, DE (Lead Nation), IT and NL), aims at having highly educated and trained medical personnel, to meet Member States’ training demands and objectives. Under the umbrella of the MN MEDEVAC TRG Management Committee, a training course is being envisaged with a Train to Trainer (TTT) format for paramedic personnel. The objective is to achieve harmonisation which combines interoperability of professional content as well as language aspects. This will allow contributing Member States to reduce all possible boundaries and errors in CSDP operations and missions.