Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance collaborate with the Royal Air Force during Covid19 pandemic

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA) are amongst the first Air Ambulance services to collaborate with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to carry critically ill patients from more remote areas to major trauma centres with increased intensive care capacity. On Tuesday 7th April the Charity undertook the first time-critical transfer of a patient from Jersey to University Hospital Southampton in an RAF Chinook.

During a joint training exercise at the Charity’s Airbase in Thruxton last week, the Charity’s Critical Care Teams worked alongside military personnel to prepare themselves for an initiative that will play an important role in helping to bring increased support to patients on the Isle of Wight and other more remote areas, during the Covid-19 pandemic. The teams simulated loading critically ill, ventilated patients onto RAF Chinook, Puma and RN Merlin aircraft and then providing constant support and care to them inside the military aircraft. The drills practiced during this exercise will be incorporated into new operating procedures being drawn up to oversee military aircrew and Air Ambulance services collaboration across the country.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance CEO Alex Lochrane commented ‘It is absolutely our duty to do everything that we can to ensure that patients on the Isle of Wight, and other more remote areas, get the necessary critical care during the current pandemic. This is a hugely impressive and vitally important collaboration with the RAF and I am immensely proud of our Critical Care clinicians and the Care Group Management team within University Hospital Southampton who have responded with flexibility and total selflessness to the rapidly evolving health crisis, displaying their usual professionalism, dedication and teamwork’.

The Charity’s teams of paramedics and doctors will be on hand to fly on board military helicopters, such as the RAF Chinook, providing urgent critical care to patients as they are transferred to major trauma centres across the country, including University Hospital Southampton and the new NHS Nightingale hospital at London’s ExCel Centre. Three RAF Chinook helicopters, which can carry up to two ventilated patients each, are currently on standby at RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

Dr Simon Hughes, a senior Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine Consultant with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, for over 10 years, who led the joint training session commented:

‘A Chinook helicopter not only has the advantage of range and speed, but it also offers more space than the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, allowing us to continue care for patients who could potentially be Covid-19 positive, whilst maintaining a safe distance from the military aircrew.’

In the meantime, the Charity continues to respond to critically ill patients across the region with both the Air Ambulance and emergency response vehicles remaining operational seven days a week, day and night. Full personal protective equipment (PPE) has been made available to the Charity’s teams of doctors and Specialist Critical Care Paramedics in order to ensure that risks of infection are minimised when they attend the scene of an incident.