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The Air Ambulance Service brings blood on board

The critical, lifesaving work of The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS) has been further enhanced through the introduction of blood and plasma on board its helicopters and critical care cars.

Every day, The Air Ambulance Service – which operates the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) and Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) – attends victims of major trauma, some of which suffer catastrophic bleeding.

This latest clinical development for the service allows its highly trained medical crews to provide prehospital emergency blood transfusions to those patients who have life-threatening bleeding from medical conditions to severe injuries – predominately sustained through road traffic collisions or stabbings.

With road traffic collisions making up most of the incidents TAAS has attended over the past 19 years, and with the increase of knife crime throughout its counties, this onboarding of blood and plasma further enhances the vital care provided to the service’s patients.

“For the bleeding patient, blood transfusion is one part of a package of critical care that is provided by our teams to bring advanced resuscitation earlier in the patient’s care before they arrive at hospital, giving them the best chance of survival,” explained TAAS Deputy Clinical Lead and University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) Consultant Dr Caroline Leech.

“With data from UHCW showing that two-thirds of their major trauma patients who required emergency blood transfusion were treated and transported by TAAS, it has shown there may be a potential benefit in bringing blood to the patient earlier. All our doctors and critical care paramedics have received comprehensive training alongside enhanced procedures to be able to deliver the intervention efficiently at scene,” added Caroline.

The project has taken 18 months to come to fruition and is a collaboration between the charity and University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust blood transfusion laboratory, Nottingham University Hospital blood transfusion laboratory, the Warwickshire & Solihull Blood Bikes, and Leicestershire & Rutland Blood Bikes.

Nottingham Hospitals Charity have also given a generous grant to help the charity fund a blood fridge and blood plasma freezer at their hospital site.

“We are extremely pleased to have funded this blood fridge and blood plasma freezer to enable the storage of vital blood products for patients being treated by The Air Ambulance Service,” said Barbara Cathcart, Chief Executive of Nottingham Hospitals Charity.

“We hope that this will enable patients suffering from heavy blood loss to be treated as soon as possible, before their arrival at hospital, giving them the best possible chance of recovery. This donation was made possible thanks to our generous donors from across the Midlands.”

Both WNAA and DLRAA will be carrying packed O negative red blood cells (pRBC) which carry oxygen around the body, and Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) which contains clotting factors that help to make a blood clot and stop bleeding.

There will be a 24-hour rotation of blood products, and any blood and plasma that is not used by the air ambulance will be put back into the blood bank and can be administered to patients in hospital thereby avoiding any wastage.

Commenting on the achievement, TAAS Director of Operations Richard Clayton said, “The introduction of prehospital blood transfusions is another positive development in The Air Ambulance Service’s absolute commitment to support the most critically ill and injured patients it has proudly served for nearly 19 years. I am extremely grateful to everyone that has been involved in the project.”

The Air Ambulance Service is not government funded and relies entirely on public donations to remain operational and to make medical developments such as this. To support the lifesaving service, please click here.