Essex Air Ambulance to carry blood supplies

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UK-based Essex and Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) will now be carrying blood supplies on board its helicopters and Rapid Response Vehicles (RRVs), a development that will enable pre-hospital transfusion at the scene of an incident.

The blood is being supplied by The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow. It will be delivered daily – in special cool boxes that keep the blood at a low temperature for at least 24 hours – to EHAAT’s airbases at Earls Colne and North Weald via Essex Voluntary Blood Service (EVBS) riders.

“We are so delighted and excited to be working in partnership with EHAAT in providing emergency blood at the roadside,” said Tracy Nevin, Blood Transfusion Specialist Practitioner at The Princess Alexandra Hospital. “We have developed such a positive working relationship in such a short time that we’re elated to be going live.”

EHAAT Clinical Director Stuart Elms said: “Traditionally, patients have had blood lost replaced with saline, which has many limitations when what they need is the oxygen-carrying capability and clotting factors of blood products.” The blood supplies on board EHAAT helicopters and RRVs will be blood group O Negative, meaning they can be used to treat any patient, and when required, these will be administered with plasma: the other major component of human blood.

This early transfusion will significantly reduce the time lost in having to take a patient to a hospital to receive blood, and as a result, will become a life-saving intervention in many emergency situations.

When the blood is required, it will be warmed to at least body temperature using a MEQU warmer, which costs approximately £3,000, to make it safe to administer to the patient and prevent unnecessary cooling of the patient. Elms extended his thanks to Nore Light Masonic Lodge no 35, whose donation paid for the MEQU blood warmer and four of the special cool bags needed to carry blood supplies. Geraldine Symons, Immediate Past Master of Nore Light Masonic Lodge no 35, commented: “We are delighted to contribute. EHAAT do heroic work in saving lives and we are in awe of them. Long may they continue, and we hope we have been able to help in some small way.”

Elms added that EHAAT had been working closely with partners and colleagues at The Princess Alexandra Hospital and EVBS to ensure a safe, temperature-controlled environment for the blood, as well as zero wastage of the vital product.

Chairlady and Co-ordinator for EVBS Carol Weller commented: “We are honoured to join forces with EHAAT. This opportunity has taken time to put together, but the effort is worth the lives that we can potentially help save. The team is as excited as I am, and we cannot wait to go live.”

With the addition of blood supplies on board air ambulance helicopters and RRVs, critical life-saving interventions are increasingly possible. Truly, this is a pivotal moment for the emergency medical services – and this story comes shortly after the news that North West Air Ambulance Charity announced life-saving blood supplies on board its helicopters at the end of February (read more). Its thanks to generous donations and partnerships between these vital services that advancements such as these are made possible.

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