Devon Freewheelers partners with ambulance service to launch breakthrough service

PUBLISHED: 11:30 10 June 2016 | UPDATED: 08:41 14 June 2016

Devon Freewheelers’ area co-ordinator Mo Ayling hands over life-saving blood to the air ambulance crew (in red). He is joined by Devon Freewheelers volunteers and sponsor John Capon of Otter Windows (centre in blue)

Devon Freewheelers’ area co-ordinator Mo Ayling hands over life-saving blood to the air ambulance crew (in red). He is joined by Devon Freewheelers volunteers and sponsor John Capon of Otter Windows (centre in blue)

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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.

A Honiton charity has launched a new life-saving service in conjunction with the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance to get blood to 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 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.

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 have 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.”

Emergency blood transfusions are usually given to patients who suffer life-threatening bleeding caused by major trauma or acute medical conditions.

Forty per cent 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 more than 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.

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.

Mr Lavery initiated the work to access to the funding, so that the service incurs no additional costs for the DSAA.

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance’s chief executive officer, said: “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, SW Ambulance Service (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.”

SWASFT’s deputy clinical director, Adrian South, added: “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.”


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