Patients with life threatening illnesses or injuries who live in rural areas from Stranraer to Stornoway will now have access to a dedicated Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS).
Scotland’s new ‘flying doctor’ service is a unique and innovation service which sees consultants from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde work in close co-operation with the Scottish Ambulance Service and rural health boards.
The service was originally provided by consultants on a voluntary basis but has been so successful the Scottish Government has given £1.5 million in funding for an 18 month pilot.
The aim of the service is provide patients suffering life threatening injuries or illness in rural areas along the west coast of Scotland with rapid access to the skills of either an emergency or intensive care consultant.
The consultants are based in Glasgow but are only one phone call and one helicopter ride away. A highly specialist team from both the NHS and the Scottish Ambulance Service are quickly deployed by either ambulance service helicopter, fixed wing aircraft or the Royal Navy Sea King helicopter to any patient requiring emergency or intensive care medicine if it is not available on site.
The EMRS brings the urban hospital emergency department to patients in remote and rural areas and one such patient who benefited from the service is Ellen Brown from Islay.
Having contracted meningitis, Ellen was unconscious. Her GP rang the EMRS and was given advice over the phone on how to initially treat Ellen. The consultant was then flown to Islay by the Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter. When the consultant arrived on the island the patient was anaesthetized and catheters were inserted into an artery in her wrist and into her heart to optimize their blood pressure.
Ellen was then flown on a ventilator directly to an intensive care bed in Glasgow. Ellen made a full recovery and was discharged from hospital a week later but knows the story could have been very different if the retrieval service was not available.
She said: “I am here today because of this service and I am glad it has been given money to continue.
“This service saved my life for which I will be forever grateful.”
Dr Stephen Hearns, Consultant in Emergency Medicine based at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and lead consultant for EMRS is delighted dedicated funding has been allocated for an 18 month pilot.
He said: “The service will not only offer an integrated system of rural emergency care but will also provide rural GPs with additional training in emergency care and immediate access to expert advice on patient care and management.
“The initial pilot is for 18 months we hope that eventually this service will be a permanent addition for the NHS in Scotland.”
Jim Kersse, Head of Air Ambulance Service at the Scottish Ambulance Service, added: “Our air paramedics are highly trained specialists in emergency care and undertake over 3000 flights every year.
“The EMRS will offer an enhancement to the existing paramedic service for those patients who would benefit from the early intervention of a consultant.”
Notes to Editors
What does this service offer people in rural areas?
This service offers patients in rural areas with life threatening injuries and illnesses with an improved chance of survival. This is through the emergency medical retrieval service taking a role in rural practitioner training, immediate access to expert emergency telephone advice, rapid access to a consultant with critical care skills in the rural health care facility and safe air transfer to definitive care. Essentially the emrs is an integrated system of emergency care for rural Scotland.
How does this new service differ from what already exists?
The Scottish Ambulance Service currently operates two helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft serving rural health care facilities. These are crewed by pilots and paramedics. What the emergency medical retrieval service does is add a consultant in emergency or intensive care medicine equipped with mobile life support equipment to the existing pilot and paramedic team. This allows a huge increase in the number of life saving interventions that can be carried out in the rural General Practitioners’ surgery or rural community hospital.
What area will you cover?
The pilot will serve all rural health care facilities on the west coast from Stranraer in the south to Stornoway in the north. This includes three rural general hospitals, 13 community hospitals and numerous isolated practices.
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