An Update by the Air Ambulance Crew

By Alan Rogers

On the evening of 12th November, SERV S&SL members who provide support to the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance were invited to the Redhill hanger for an update evening. The offer was taken up by the majority of our specifically trained controllers and rider/drivers, including those actually on duty that evening. KSSAAT Clincial Manager and Paramedic Gary Wareham gave us all a presentation covering some statistics covering their missions since we began supporting them in February this year, a couple of case studies involving motorcycle accidents that they’d attended and then an overview of the specialist equipment they use.

Popular perception is that the Air Ambulance is exactly that, an airborne ambulance, but this is apparently both a misnomer and an understatement. A better version can be lifted from their own web site where they describe themselves as “Bringing A&E to the patient”. Crews comprise a pilot, a doctor and a paramedic, the latter two of which are trained in advanced pre-hospital care. Gary took great delight in explaining the reasons for and procedure involved in an emergency thoracotomy under general anaesthetic – don’t follow that link if you’re at all squeamish!

Most impressively, remembering first that the Air Ambulance is only called out to incidents where it is absolutely needed, where the capabilities of normal ambulance crews or paramedics have been or are likely to be insufficient, upwards of 80% of patients are delivered safely and alive to a major trauma centre for further treatment. With the Surrey-based aircraft now also being available to fly at night, subject to weather conditions and visibility, it’s heartening to know that our contribution to their supply logistics is both valuable and appreciated.

Future developments under consideration include potentially carrying plasma on board, in addition to the current universal red blood cells they carry for transfusions at the incident. The challenge is that plasma has to be kept frozen, and therefore takes time to thaw out, making delivery at an incident very difficult. However, the military already uses dried plasma and discussions are being had to grant a similar licence to HEMS units in the United Kingdom. This will further increase the chances of trauma victims receiving the much needed advance pre-hospital care necessary to survive their incident.

Apparently discussions are due to begin between the East Anglia Air Ambulance and SERV Norfolk, based on the procedures that we together with SERV Kent have pioneered in conjunction with the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance, to enable another HEMS provider carry blood products on board to extend that precious “Golden Hour“.

It was very nice to be invited to this update, the content of which was interesting, shocking and enlightening in equal parts. To receive such feedback, on what is a small part of what we do on a daily basis, makes the donation of our time, fuel, wear and tear gratifying and enjoyable.

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