Devon Freewheelers partners with Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance

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Breakthrough service delivers blood for emergency transfusions at remote locations

A new life-saving service was launched today that will enable blood transfusions to be given to critically Injured people in remote locations.

The service will see volunteer riders and drivers from Devon Freewheelers’ emergency response team dropping off blood to Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance’s operations centre at Henstridge Airfield every other day. The blood will then be available for air ambulance paramedics to administer blood when they arrive at the scene of an emergency.

The Devon Freewheelers’ blood bikes will also available to deliver an emergency response to replenish stocks if more blood is required by the aircrews at any time.

The Devon Freewheelers started carrying blood for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance on 26 April 2016, and the official launch of the service took place at Henstridge airbase in Somerset today (9 June 2016).

Life-saving blood delivered as quickly as possible
Daniel Lavery, founder and Chief Executive of Devon Freewheelers, said: “Blood is crucial for the Helimed team so that they can carry out emergency blood transfusions for patients who suffer major trauma. We’ve been providing this service for the NHS in the South West for years, but this new function means that even those who have accidents in remote locations can receive life-saving blood as quickly as possible. We’ve worked hard to secure the funding for this service from the Henry Surtees Foundation, so it’s a pleasure to now be working alongside Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. Since we started operating the service it has already saved a number of lives, which demonstrates how critically important it is.”

Getting blood to patients is essential in helping save lives, as it replenishes their blood volume, enabling oxygen to get to their vital organs. This gives patients a better chance of survival and buys the air ambulance staff the time needed to get patients to hospital for treatment. The air ambulance has critical-care specialist paramedics on board who have specific training and qualifications to administer emergency blood.

Emergency blood transfusions are usually given to patients who suffer life-threatening bleeding caused by major trauma or acute medical conditions. 40% of trauma deaths are due to bleeding, so being able to carry and administer blood products to these patients before they get to hospital could be a matter of life or death.

Devon Freewheelers deliver four units of ‘O type’ red blood cells
The collaboration means that Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance joins nine other air ambulance services across the UK that now carry blood products on board their aircraft and rapid response vehicles. Devon Freewheelers, which has a team of 50+ volunteer emergency vehicle drivers, will deliver four units of ‘O type’ red blood cells to Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, unlike many others who carry only two.

The Devon Freewheelers’ riders will pick up the blood from the Transfusion Laboratory at Dorset County Hospital (DCH) in temperature-regulated ‘Golden Hour’ boxes which keep the blood under 6°C for up to 72 hours. If the box is unopened at the end of a 48-hour period, it will be collected by the Devon Freewheelers and returned to DCH where it will be reissued and utilised within the hospital. Similarly, if blood is used during a shift, the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service Desk (HEMS) contact the DCH Transfusion Laboratory and the Devon Freewheelers will deliver additional stocks within a matter of hours.

Special blood-storage containers maintain temperature
The blood-storage containers are insulated boxes that maintain the blood within a narrow temperature range preventing damage and spoilage. When needed, the blood is then warmed towards body temperature using a small portable device.

The Devon Freewheelers will be on-hand, as always, to deliver blood to the air ambulance 365 days a year.

The project’s set-up costs of £17,000 and the leasing costs of the Devon Freewheelers’ Vauxhall Mokka 4x4 (which is being used as an additional resource to deliver and collect the blood) has been funded by the Henry Surtees Foundation. Devon Freewheelers’ founder Dan Lavery initiated the work to access to the funding, so that the service incurs no additional costs for the DSAA.

Support from Goulds department store
Backing also includes funds provided by Dorchester department stores Goulds, which has designated the cause as it’s chosen charity for the year. Money raised by the stores’ collections will fund fuel costs of the Vauxhall Mokka, which will cover up of 1,000 miles per week.

Devon Freewheelers is a charity that relies solely on volunteers and donations to run its life-saving out-of-hours service each year, which is not funded by the NHS. The current cost of running the service is around £150,000 per year, but more funds are needed for every new service that is added.

The new service is operating thanks to a number of partners including the Devon Freewheelers, the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, Dorset County Hospital, the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT), and the Henry Surtees Foundation.

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer
“To the lay person, the decision to carry blood in the Air Ambulance seems very straightforward. However, in reality, it takes an enormous amount of careful consideration and detailed planning by a number of organisations to make it happen. Bringing together the experience and expertise of the Air Ambulance, Dorset County Hospital, SWASfT and Devon Freewheelers and the generous support of the Henry Surtees Foundation, epitomises what can be achieved through good collaboration. The whole really is much more than the sum of its parts and our patients will bear witness to that in the years to come.”

Dr. Ian Mew (Consultant in Anaesthetics & Intensive Care Medicine), on behalf of Dorset County Hospital
“Providing blood for the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance critical care team to give at the roadside is something that we’re particularly proud of. Our blood transfusion staff have worked very closely with the Charity over the past year, installing specialist equipment in the laboratory and developing processes to ensure the blood is kept according to very strict criteria whilst on the helicopter. For the past three years, three of our consultants have been flying with the air ambulance and have been providing training for the critical care paramedics. By combining this with the provision of blood, Dorset County Hospital is proud to be making a difference to the wider community and looks forward to working with the Charity to provide life-saving care into the future.”

SW Ambulance Service (SWASFT) deputy clinical director, Adrian South
“SWASFT’s critical care specialist paramedics who work on the air ambulance receive additional training so they can bring even more clinical skills to the most seriously ill and injured patients. Along with critical care doctors, they are able to administer the blood. This new initiative to carry blood for transfusions will be of real benefit for patients in the south west.”

John Surtees
“With a background in motorsport, I have spent my life largely chasing time round the race tracks of the world. I know that every second counts and none more so than for the Air Ambulance Services when accidents or illnesses occur. I would like to say a special thank you to Vauxhall for supporting our initiative. I’m sure that the assistance of the Vauxhall Mokka will be a huge benefit to the region and help save multiple lives.”

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