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National charity and Southampton Oxford transport team for critically ill babies set to help save more lives with England’s first helicopter incubator

National charity and Southampton Oxford transport team for critically ill babies set to help save more lives with England’s first helicopter incubator

The pioneering Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) has introduced England’s first incubator on a rotary-wing aircraft to assist specialist NHS transport teams during lifesaving flights.

The national transfer service provides the only intensive care aircraft in the country dedicated to transferring critically ill babies and children, at a high and safe speed, from local hospitals to specialist paediatric and neonatal treatment centres.

Thanks to the support of public donations, the charity has designed and developed three bespoke Neonatal Transport Systems which have been provided to specialist NHS transport teams across England free of charge to enhance patient care.

The charity, NHS Clinical Partner Teams at Bristol’s Newborn Emergency Stabilisation and Transfer (NEST), Embrace Yorkshire and Humberside Infant and Children Transport Service (Embrace), Southampton Oxford Neonatal Transport (SONeT) International Biomedical and Gama Aviation collaborated on a bespoke design, bringing three Neonatal Transport Systems onboard its brand new AgustaWestland 169 aircraft – now provided by Sloane Helicopters Ltd.

An incubator is an apparatus used to maintain environmental conditions suitable for a newborn baby and is used in preterm birth or for some ill full-term babies. The ability to maintain the temperature, humidity and oxygen levels provides a safe environment for the young patient.

The new and bespoke TCAA Neonatal Transport Systems have been designed with input from SONeT to ensure they are able to provide outstanding care in the air. In addition to the incubator, the system includes a Patient Monitor, Ventilator, Suction Unit, four Infusion Devices, Oxygen, and specialist Nitric Oxide Therapy.

The Neonatal Transport Systems are a vital piece of equipment and really come into their own when paired with the Children’s Air Ambulance’s new AW169 aircraft. The large cabin interior allows access to both sides of the Neonatal Transport System, and with excellent visibility from all four seats, it means more specialists’ eyes can monitor the patient – as well as the parent.

This space means that a parent doesn’t have to move if a clinician needs access to care for their child, meaning they can remain close to their child the entire flight, putting their mind at ease.

These new state-of-the-art Neonatal Transport Systems integrate seamlessly with the charity’s stretcher system, making the aircraft second to none in the provision of neonatal transfers alongside SONeT.

Speaking on behalf of SONeT, the first team to use the incubators for two vital transfers in the South already, Dr Sarah Davidson, neonatal consultant at University Hospital Southampton and SONeT Wessex lead said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of the design team for the new flight incubator which has incorporated years of clinical experience with specialist engineering to produce a safe, first-rate and high functioning transport system.

“A lot of time has gone into making this a safe way to transport even our sickest patients, ensuring they have access to intensive care equipment and therapies whilst they are travelling to the specialist centre.

“The incubator system will allow SONeT to move patients who were previously too small or needed additional support and we are very pleased to say we have already been able to fly using the new incubator and this was a patient who previously would not have been able to be flown to us for specialist care.

“Working with TCAA provides so many benefits including reduced transfer times, reaching patients more quickly to deliver expert care and treatment at the scene, bringing babies closer to home when a mother delivers in another part of England, moving patients as an emergency to specialist neonatal units and repatriating them back to local units.

“We look forward to continuing to partner with the TCAA to provide the best possible care for our babies and their families and make sure they get the care they need safely and as soon as possible.”

The Children’s Air Ambulance charity is continually looking at ways to increase support to the NHS and the clinical teams it works alongside. By bringing these new incubators on board, the service is really leading the way in paediatric and neonatal aeromedical transfers.

Alfie Daly, Head of Operations for the Children’s Air Ambulance said; “I am delighted that we have now introduced our bespoke Neonatal Transport Systems so we can transfer neonatal patients and support the great team at SONeT to provide the best possible care. A tremendous amount of work has gone into this project which is fundamentally based on NHS clinicians’ requirements to ensure they have everything they need to provide the best possible patient care. It’s a huge achievement for the Children’s Air Ambulance and a lifesaving piece of equipment.”