Background Op NEWCOMBE was the UK contribution to the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) between 2019 and 2023. The UK deployed a Role 1 capability, a small surgical capability (Ground Manoeuvre Surgical Group) and Task Force Headquarters medical subject matter experts for a population at risk of ~300. Over subsequent deployments the Medical Group concept developed with the aim to optimise capability and resource, combining into one sub-Unit.
Observations Combined operation established a clear chain of command, provided learning opportunities, and enhanced the provision of care available, whilst generating resilience. The Role 1 was able to operate at an increased capacity: >1000 patient consultations over 6 months, mass vaccinations and disease outbreak management. Duplication of assurance, governance and pre-deployment training was reduced. Patients benefited from in Theatre access to imaging, laboratory tests and consultant specialist advice, with early identification of replacement force generation requirements. The combined approach allowed rapid reaction to emergencies or periods of increased medical workload. During three of the five rotations, significant UK and international incidents were managed throughout the patient care pathway utilising the entirety of the Medical Group.
Conclusions Future deployment models should consider this force enabling approach in the planning, force generation and deployment phases for new Operations. Early identification and adoption of a Medical Group composition ensures pre-deployment risks can be identified and mitigated early, team cohesion can be generated, duplication of training and governance can be prevented whilst optimising the provision of deployed care.
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