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National charity and Yorkshire’s dedicated transport service for critically ill babies set to help save more lives with England’s first helicopter incubator

National charity and Yorkshire’s dedicated transport service 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 collaborated with NHS Clinical Partner Teams at Embrace Yorkshire and Humberside Infant and Children Transport Service (Embrace), which is part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust; Bristol’s Newborn Emergency Stabilisation and Transfer (NEST), Southampton Oxford Neonatal Transport (SONeT), International Biomedical and Gama Aviation 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 Embrace 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.

“We’ve been proud to work with TCAA for ten years now. The flight incubator project is an exciting milestone that will advance the service they perform for our patients,” said Ian Braithwaite, Transport Nurse Educator with Embrace.

“We have always had babies who are too small or cold for the flight stretcher, and until now we have not been able to offer them the transport advantages that the helicopter provides. The new flight incubator allows us to provide the same level of advanced medical support using the same equipment as on the stretcher, but also providing a secure and warm environment.” Ian added.

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.

The helicopter also has plentiful medical air and oxygen supplies, and easily controllable heat and light levels, and with the onboard power, it reduces the reliance on batteries – making it a very efficient enhancement the national service provides.

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 Embrace.

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.

Ian from Embrace added: “The design and development of these incubators has been a long and complex project; the result of close collaboration between TCAA, the clinical partner teams and the aviation and engineering specialists. As a nurse with twenty years of flight transport experience, I am excited to be close to using the best flight incubator I have ever seen. Embrace are thrilled to have access to a truly state-of-the-art asset, built to the highest quality and whose function exceeds our original brief.”

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 Embrace 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.”