On 14 December, UK paediatric transfer charity The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) announced that it had completed its first missions. The flights came following an announcement between TCAA and Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, of a partnership to facilitate a helicopter transfer system for the hospital’s extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) team, which treats children and babies with life-threatening cardiac or respiratory conditions.
The first transfer took place on 10 December, when the ECMO team was flown from Glenfield Hospital to Sheffield Children's Hospital. TCAA said the total transfer time was 34 minutes, whereas to complete the journey by road would have taken one hour and 23 minutes. The second mission came on 12 December, when TCAA took an ECMO team from Glenfield Hospital to Hull Royal Infirmary. This transfer took 35 minutes, a journey that would have taken over two hours by land, said TCAA.
Alex Toft, director of operations for TCAA, explained: “These are the first of many transfers that we will be carrying out with the ECMO team. They currently do approximately 50 transfers a year by road; that’s at least 50 children that can receive potentially lifesaving treatment a lot quicker, and hopefully by getting them there quicker, it will help increase their availability to do more of this fantastic work.”
Chris Harvey, ECMO consultant at Glenfield Hospital, added: “Glenfield Hospital is the only hospital in the country to provide a mobile ECMO service for babies and children. Children requiring ECMO are incredibly sick, and to be able to reach them anywhere in the country at such speed is incredibly valuable to us.”
Under its partnership with Glenfield Hospital, TCAA will initially be flying ECMO teams and equipment to the patient, but the charity is also looking at how it can facilitate flying the child back to Glenfield, said Andy Williamson, TCAA chief executive officer. The hospital’s ECMO director Giles Peek commented that its current tally of around 50 ECMO transfers per year could increase thanks to the partnership.