Factors affecting front line casualty care in Afghanistan

D. Batham, Alan Finnegan, Matt Kiernan, C. Wall, Robin Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Limited research has been undertaken to assess the effectiveness of pre-hospital care given at the point of wounding, nor how battlefield conditions affect the implementation of Battlefield Advanced Trauma Life Support (BATLS). This study examines the quality of care given at Role 1 and the psychological impact on clinical personnel of the application of current pre-hospital trauma management guidelines. METHOD: Data was collected through 17 digitally recorded semi-structured interviews with healthcare clinicians deployed in Role 1 medical facilities on OP HERRICK 14 following major medical incidents. Interview transcripts were subjected to content analysis based on a modified grounded theory approach. RESULTS: Triage was found to be done poorly with individuals treating patients as they were found rather than by identifying clinical priorities. Pain management was not always achieved. Fluid replacement was hampered with difficulty in obtaining parenteral access. Subsequently fluids were sometimes given in excess of protocols. Clinical documentation was not always completed even after a patient had been evacuated. Some interesting elements were noted, such as post incident reports being used as a reflective process which may be self-developmental and help clinicians deal psychologically with the incident. Clinical personnel carry out their duties, irrespective of personal injury or threats to their safety. However their performance may be tapered under such stress. Human factors training prior to deployment may help to ensure adherence to BATLS protocols despite the complexities of the battle space. CONCLUSIONS: The data identified a number of factors that affected clinicians ability to provide a high standard of casualty care. The general perception of this research cohort was that despite all the obstacles, the level of trauma care was of a high nature. However, the study provides pointers to a number of areas for future exploration where patient care was not BATLS protocol compliant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-80
JournalJournal of the Royal Army Medical Corps
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


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