Thursday, May 6, 2010

Corporal Matthew Olsson, Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT)

The Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) is based out of Camp Bastion. We are a multi-disciplinary trauma team which is deployed forward to the point of wounding to commence resuscitation and stabilise patients using advanced techniques not available to medics on the ground. Our team consists of Tri-Service Specialist Doctors, Royal Air Force Emergency Nurses and Royal Air Force Paramedics who have extensive training and experience in all aspects of trauma management gained through pre-deployment military training and civilian placements. Some of us are also members of the Reserve Forces.

I am Matthew Olsson, a MERT Paramedic working with the Royal Air Force out here.

We respond to and continue treatment for our injured personnel on the battlefield. Our aims include the quick and safe transfer of the injured by helicopter, to definitive care at hospital. In some cases these may be Afghan civilians. Co-ordination between the MERT and Camp Bastion Hospital allows patients to be assessed in the air thus enabling a tailored response in the Emergency Department or surgical operating theatre.

MERT members are all capable of working independently if required and administer intravenous pain relief to casualties. The doctors are trained and experienced in giving anaesthetic drugs, intubating and ventilating patients in flight and managing major trauma and medical emergencies. A full range of blood, plasma and blood warming equipment are carried to stabilise patients during the flight prior to surgery.

As Paramedics and Practitioners we are all registered and accountable to our respective governing bodies. The clinical governance system in place allows for continuing education, appraisal and audits of patient care. We work full time in our clinical roles when not on deployment and maintain our clinical skills in the NHS and military by treating critically ill and injured adults and children. Additionally we have all passed the following courses and hold the following competency based qualifications:

Battlefield Advanced Trauma Life Support
Advanced Life Support
Advanced Airway management
Advanced Paediatric Life Support
Pre Hospital Trauma Life Support
Major Incident Medical Management Systems
Survive Escape Resist and Extract
Helicopter Dunker Drills
Medical Emergency Response Team practical course
Aero Medical Evacuation Training (Ground and Air Phase)
Rotary and Fixed Wing aircraft familiarisation
Hypobaric chamber and altitude training
Enhanced Individual Reinforcement Training – Deployable Military Skills
HOSPEX (hospital exercise)

MERT is made up of medical personnel but there are also a number of other key players, without whom we could not perform our duties. This starts at the point of injury with the team medic out on the ground who initially deals with the wounded patients.

Those other players include the Ops Room, ATC, the RAF Regiment, Signallers, ground crews, helicopter technicians, armourers, pilots and aircrew. When we touchdown back at the hospital there are also the ground receiving crews who actually transport the patients from the helipad to the hospital. Ambulance medics, Fire fighters and all of the Hospital staff play a huge part when we arrive at their doors and complete handover of the patients to them.

The vast majority of the military and civilian casualties we transport have been injured as a result of hostile action (i.e. roadside bombs, explosions or gunshot wounds) but we also respond to what we call ‘non-battle injuries’ such as road accidents, falls and acute medical cases such as appendicitis.

An explosion recently injured a number of Afghan civilians including children. They were all cared for by ground medics, lifted and treated by MERT and United States call signs and handed over at the hospital where they received ongoing care.

The MERT also received a letter recently from one of our recovering wounded servicemen. He spoke highly of the care he received on the ground, from the MERT and his continuing specialist hospital treatment. This brave soldier has now been flown back to the UK and is making a remarkable recovery.

In summary, the MERT is a team of military emergency practitioners. We work continuously on and off deployment in our respective medical capacities. The level of skill we have achieved in trauma resuscitation is extremely high.
Working inside a moving helicopter, in the dark, in a confined space can be challenging at times but we all hope to make a positive difference during our respective tours out here.


  1. Great insight into an amazing responsibility! Thanks for your service and providing us with this background on what you do.

  2. Hats off to you Matthew and your colleagues. You are doing an amazing job in incredibly difficult circumstances.

  3. Thank you - what else can one say...Take Care All - Proud of You x

  4. Link is now on Samson, all the best Matt, you stay safe, sounds like an amazing experience.


  6. Although I woud prefer if all the troops were home with their families, I highly commend all of you for the efforts which ensure British troops and locals are looked after with such specialised care. Our Government should be humbled at your efforts. Well Done. xx

  7. janice wilkie (sas)July 7, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Well Done Matthew. I met you once at Leven Ambulance Station.Keep your head down and well done on the fantastic job you and all our guys do. We are proud of you all.

  8. Hi Matthew your doing a fantastic job out there we all appreciate you hard work and dedication. Are you an RAF reserve and still working for the NHS whilst serving?

    All the best, Andy

  9. Well done to you all out there!! You give everyone back home inspiration with your bravery. Take care you all!!!

  10. Thank you so very much for all your comments and well wishes,my motivation is the small difference we are sometimes able to make, I am honoured and humbled by my expreiences- yes I am in the NHS Andy and also in the RAF Reserve

  11. Hi Matt,The work that you and your colleagues are doing is second to none.All the very best mate. Big Al in Aberdeen(Biker)

  12. What an amazing thing to do for your country, you should be so proud of yourself. Keep the comments coming so we can keep upto date with how you are.
    Take good care of yourself Matt.

    Sharon Aviemore

  13. Great article; very informative. I'm in the application process for Medic at the moment and this article has given me a great insight to part of the real deal. To be a Paramedic is my ambition in this field.
    Thanks again for a great article, MERT aren't praised enough for what they do.

  14. People like you make our country proud. I have my officer arms selection board tomorrow into the QARANC and reading this has given me great inspiration. Thank you.

  15. Davinder Singh CheemaApril 19, 2011 at 4:17 AM

    You're doing a grand job Matthew, keep it up. I have an ambition to work on the MERT team as a reservist Medical Officer once I have the post graduate experience. Are there equal opportunities for tri-service MOs or do RAF MOs get priority?

    1. Davinder, thank you - go for it! Tri Service is the answer.

  16. As former US Army Dustoff Medic, the members of UK's MERT are our brothers and sisters. God bless you all.