Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust (EHAAT) in the UK is to introduce a round-the-clock life-saving service, seven days a week, via its rapid response (ground) vehicles (RRVs). The HEMS charity announced on 10 May that its trustees had approved the decision at its latest board meeting in order to meet its vision to provide ‘the highest level of clinical care’ across Essex, Hertfordshire and surrounding areas. The service is now working to introduce the extended service in stages from autumn 2016.
The board of trustees also gave the green light for the introduction of a double-pilot operation, which the service said will ensure that the best patient care can be provided during transportation to hospital and further boost aviation safety.
Rob Forsyth, chair of trustees said: “It’s thanks to all our supporters that we are in a positon to extend our service and provide ever more advanced clinical care to the people of Essex and Hertfordshire. These major initiatives have been fully costed in our current and future financial plans to ensure a strong and sustainable future for the charity. These improvements won’t happen overnight, but our decision sets the wheels in motion to work towards a 24/7 clinical service.”
Currently, while EHAAT’s HEMS teams operate seven days a week, shifts run from 07:00 hrs to 21:00 hrs or sunset, whichever occurs first. The extended service will see greater use of EHAAT’s RRVs, which will operate into the night, initially for two nights from the North Weald Airbase.
Like the helicopters, the RRVs transport both a critical care paramedic and pre-hospital care doctor rapidly to the scene; and carry the same life-saving equipment as carried on the helicopter. This brings an advanced level of clinical care and equipment to the patient that goes beyond that of a standard ground ambulance, said EHAAT. In addition, the RRVs will continue to be used when the aircraft are grounded due to bad weather or unplanned maintenance.
Stuart Elms, clinical director, said: “I am delighted and proud that the charity can embark on its long-term vision to deliver a first class, pre-hospital emergency medical service 24/7. Trauma, illness and cardiac arrests happen anytime, day or night: working with our partner, East of England Ambulance Service Trust, we have identified the need for extended critical care in our area. It’s tremendous news that the charity can continue to build upon its very strong foundations of excellent clinicians, clinical care and governance.”
In approving plans for a double-pilot operation, EHAAT said its trustees took onboard industry best practice and recommendations from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, which highlight the benefits of improved specialist support available to the pilot and an increased ability to recover aircraft in the event of a pilot becoming incapacitated.
Cliff Gale, operations director, commented: “EHAAT has an exemplary safety record, and whilst the Civil Aviation Authority recognises that UK single-pilot operations are safe, by moving to a two-pilot operation, we are enhancing aviation safety and patient care whilst establishing a sound model for future expansion of the HEMS Service. Two heads are better than one in emergency situations, and we recognise how vital a second pilot will be should a challenging situation occur.”
In addition, a double-pilot operation will enable critical care paramedics, who currently assist the pilot as trained technical crew members, to concentrate solely on patient care and undertake advanced clinical procedures in flight, if necessary.
Stuart Elms added: “It’s great news that we will be able to bring our critical care paramedics from the cockpit to the cabin where their critical care skills will be imperative. These days, in-flight critical care can include the administration of pre-hospital blood products, advanced cardiac care or anaesthetics, and so the ability to have both clinicians treating the patient is a huge advantage in providing the highest level of care.”