Doctors and paramedics at Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance have performed nearly 70 emergency blood transfusions in its first year.
Figures show that during the last 12 months, the service, which has one of its two helicopter bases in Redhill, carried out the advanced medical procedure usually performed after a patient arrives at hospital, 69 times at the scene of an accident or medical emergency.
According to the charity’s research, 160 units of blood were administered to patients who had life-threatening injuries, with 20 to 29 year-olds being the largest group of recipients. Air ambulance clinical manager Gary Wareham, who pioneered the launch of the blood transfusion service, said: “The project has gone very much as we expected, and we are now seeing patients delivered to hospital who may not have survived the journey before.”
He said: “We are now considering using other blood products that may further improve patient outcomes.”
The air ambulance service said its figures also showed that August was the peak period for blood transfusions, the youngest patient being aged under ten and the oldest over 90.
In one case, it said, a patient suffered chest, pelvis and spinal injuries following a collision with a car. His airway was partially obstructed and he was agitated.
The doctor and paramedic anaesthetised him at the roadside and performed emergency chest surgery to reinflate his collapsed lungs.
They then administered four units of blood at the scene and en route to the Royal London Hospital major trauma centre.
Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance last year became one of the first in the country to start carrying blood.
Every day, bikers at the Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers (SERV) deliver eight fresh units to each of the helicopter bases from the William Harvey Hospital at Ashford and East Surrey Hospital at Redhill.
SERV secretary Mel Johnson said: “The air ambulance has been a pleasure to work with over the last year. “The daily replenishment and emergency re-supply services provided by the SERV groups in Kent and Surrey have helped ensure that both helicopters are always fully stocked and ready to respond. “We are proud to have played our part using equipment funded by The Henry Surtees Foundation to ensure that the people of the three counties have been able to receive the highest standards of critical care available, provided by a triumvirate of charities working together with a common goal.”
The Henry Surtees Foundation also supplied cars for the blood runs, in addition to equipment used to store blood at the correct temperature and warm it to give to patients. John Surtees, OBE, founder of the Foundation, said: “I spent a lifetime in motorsport where every second counts. The same factor plays a vital part in saving life and injury. “The Henry Surtees Foundation was very happy to work with all the team at the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance in assisting with the introduction of the blood transfusion service.”
The air ambulance service in Kent, Surrey and Sussex costs around £6million annually to stay airborne. Receiving no funding from the National Lottery, the charity relies almost entirely upon donations from the public to support its two helicopters based at Marden in Kent and Redhill.
People wishing to find out more about the service or to make a donation should call 01622 833833 or visit its website at: www.kssairambulance.org.uk