Like many charities across the UK, the recent pandemic brought many new challenges to Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the charity has had to adjust to a new way of working, flying in the face of Covid-19.
Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance responded to 1,365 incidents across Yorkshire, in the north of England, treated 922 patients, and 123 patients were flown to hospital. This represents a 10-per-cent decrease in operations from the previous year, much of which can be attributed to operational changes due to the pandemic.
Over a year ago, at the beginning of April 2020 and during the height of the first lockdown in the UK, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) took the difficult decision to temporarily redeploy all of their Critical Care Paramedics on to frontline ambulance duties to support their colleagues and add additional resilience. The impact on the operations of the charity was significant and resulted in an 88-per-cent decrease in incidents attended for the month of April (16 incidents in 2020 vs 132 in 2019). Whilst the aircraft was offline for those three weeks, their crews were redeployed to support the Yorkshire & Humber Nightingale Hospital.
This trend followed throughout the year with April (16), November (72) and December (78) being the charities operationally quietest months as the nation obeyed the government’s ‘stay at home’ message and locked down once more.
Incidents rose as lockdown was eased
After the three-week deployment back to the frontline, the YAA crew then returned to their duties. However, as lockdown measures were steadily eased and Yorkshire Air Ambulance became operational again, incidents quickly rose by 20 per cent, with August being the busiest month of 2020, with 165 incidents responded to – an average of five incidents a day. This was closely followed by 142 incidents in July.
To ensure crew safety and minimise any risk of Covid transmission, the YAA helicopters were adapted with safety measures, including Perspex screens to separate the cockpit from the cabin. During this period, the YAA’s Rapid Response Vehicles became another crucial way of delivering vital care to patients, ensuring the Critical Care Team – with their specialist skills – could attend incidents. This led to a 58-per-cent increase in response to incidents by road (141 in 2019 vs 223 in 2020).
As more people continued to work from home, road traffic incidents dropped by 10 per cent, accounting for only 130 incidents out of 1,365, compared to 254 out 1,523 in the previous year. Falls from height, which also includes climbing and falls during leisurely pursuits such as walking, was the most common incident of the year, followed closely by cardiac arrests (111), which dropped by over a third (36 per cent compared to the previous year (174).
Men aged 40-65 most frequently treated
Men (610) were almost three times as likely to be involved in an incident responded to by YAA compared to women (233) and the patient group most frequently treated by Yorkshire Air Ambulance were in the 40-to-65 age group.
North Yorkshire, one of the most popular tourist spots in the region, topped the records for the most falls in the region (24), South Yorkshire had the most D.I.Y injuries (8) and West (38) and East (31) Yorkshire experienced the most cardiac arrests.
Matt Syrat, YAA Clinical Operations Manager, commented: “The pandemic had a direct impact on the care we were able to deliver by air, but it’s important to realise that the brief time away was spent helping the frontline battle of the first wave of infections, preparing us, mentally, physically and clinically, for the return to air operations. It has been an incredibly difficult 12 months but the resilience and professionalism our staff have shown has made me proud to be part of such an amazing team.”