NATO Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services gather for their 60th Plenary
From 12 to 14 September 2023, the NATO Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services (COMEDS) convened its 60th plenary in London, United Kingdom. The COMEDS received keynote addresses from Mr. Angus Lapsley, Assistant Secretary General of the Defence Policy and Planning (ASG DPP) Division and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), Admiral Sir Keith Blount. Further briefings were delivered by the Ukrainian Surgeon General, Major General Tetiana Ostashchenko, NATO Command Structure military medical officers, as well as COMEDS Working Group and Panel representatives.
Organised to coincide with the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) trade exhibition, COMEDS’ delegates toured the exhibition and met with leading medical industry representatives on disruptive and digital technologies. Throughout the three-day plenary, delegates from Australia, Austria, Israel, Switzerland, New Zealand, Serbia, Ukraine and Invitee Sweden attended different sessions in person or via Video Teleconference.
The COMEDS Chair, Major General Tim Hodgetts, the United Kingdom’s Surgeon General, opened the official plenary session by welcoming participants from Allied Nations, partner organisations and countries as well as NATO representatives. In his opening remarks, the Chair stressed the committee’s mission to ensure that NATO’s Deterrence and Defence is underpinned by effective medical support and enablement. Major General Hodgetts then highlighted the four domains of particular interest to COMEDs following NATO’s Vilnius Summit:
- medical capabilities support to the Regional Plans and warfighting at scale,
- technological investment specifically digital transformation,
- Global Partnerships and interoperability,
- and Strengthened societal resilience.
"As NATO moves forward translating these commitments into actions and activities, COMEDs needs to increase its support to both civilian and military entities across the organisation," said Major General Hodgetts.
Delivering his keynote speech, Mr. Angus Lapsley, ASG DPP explained the role of the Defence Policy and Planning Division, NATO’s Defence Planning Process, and the significant impact of the Regional Plans for the military medical domain. Commending the COMEDS work, the Assistant Secretary General said: “You are playing an important role in positioning your community to strengthen medical planning and policy at the NATO level, raising awareness and providing advice on critical capability shortfalls, working hard to strengthen civil-military medical cooperation”.
Admiral Sir Keith Blount, DSACEUR focused his keynote remarks on the medical challenges facing Allied forces in the event of Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO), in light of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the challenging global security environment. DSACEUR further stressed the importance of the COMEDS Surgeon Generals engaging at the national level as the Regional Plans and tactical plans are further refined and developed.
The extraction of medical lessons from the Ukraine war is underpinning COMEDS ongoing work regarding medical capabilities and requirements for warfighting at scale. Briefing the Committee, Major General Tetiana Ostashchenko, Ukraine’s Surgeon General, explained the current situation in Ukraine and stressed the importance of continued support from Allies and partners. The Ukrainian Surgeon General went on to highlight the importance of NATO –Ukraine Comprehensive Assistance Package for the development of Ukrainian rehabilitation services, especially regarding a substantive project that will be decisive in returning injured Service Personnel back to active duty.
The COMEDS plenary saw sessions focused on medical support for Ukraine, the implementation of the Concept for the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area (DDA), Patient Flow Management guidance, Global Partnership, and Strengthened Resilience through civil-military collaboration. In addition, progress reports from selected COMEDS Working Groups and Panels were briefed to the plenary. The Chair remarked that many current work strands from the Blood Panel to the Military Mental Health panel were now at a level that required cooperation and support from external stakeholders such as the Joint Health Group, the European Union Military Staff, and the NATO Command Structure.
Concluding the plenary, COMEDS delegates took advantage of the DSEI trade exhibition, to engage with Industry Partners and to participate in a planned DISruptive TECHnology discovery trail with subject matter experts and medical industry partners. “Interoperability and multi-nationality in medical provision assures common and best standards as well as buys out mutual risks of capability shortfalls”, stressed Major General Hodgetts.