Air ambulance service more vital than ever 90 years on

  • By Lisa Summers
  • Scotland Health Correspondent

Image caption,

Ian McKenzie joined the air ambulance service after working as a paramedic on the Isle of Skye

On 14 May 1933, a telegram arrived on the St Andrews Ambulance service.

It was from the native physician on Islay requesting the evacuation of a significantly sick affected person.

Shortly after, fisherman John McDermid, set off for Glasgow, the primary affected person on Scotland’s first recorded air ambulance flight.

It was unlikely that Mr McDermid, who wanted a abdomen operation urgently, would have survived the lengthy highway and sea journey to town.

Now, 90 years on, the Scottish Air Ambulance Service (SAAS) continues to supply important medical care and transportation to hundreds of individuals dwelling on islands or in distant components of Scotland.

By 1948 SAAS grew to become publicly funded as a part of the newly created nationwide well being service. Until that time it relied largely on native or non-public preparations to fly sufferers.

Now there’s a fleet of two helicopters – one based mostly in Glasgow and one in Inverness – and two mounted wing plane at Aberdeen Airport and at Glasgow Airport.

The service additionally calls on help from two helicopters offered by Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA).

‘I’m so grateful to the service that saved my son’s life’

Image supply, Ann Macdonald

Image caption,

Magnus’s mum Ann credit the air ambulance crew for saving her son’s life.

Ann Macdonald lives on Tiree. There’s not every week goes by that she would not see the air ambulance fly over – in the summertime it looks like every day.

Every time she sees it, she is grateful to the service that saved her boy’s life.

On New Year’s Day 2019, her 11-year-old son Magnus developed a extreme allergy and went into anaphylactic shock. An emergency airlift bought him to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital within the nick of time.

Ann stated: “The native physician and nurse have been sensible and bought him stabilised, however his situation collapsed thrice and by the third time his blood stress had plummeted, he was struggling to breathe and so they stated his organs have been shutting down.

Image supply, Robert Plunkett

Image caption,

Sunset at Islay airport and an ambulance waits for a affected person to reach on one of many service’s air ambulances

“It was terrifying as a result of by that third time, they have been working out of the treatment they have been utilizing.

A specialist paediatric crew was despatched with the air ambulance to Tiree and Magnus was flown to Glasgow Airport the place an ambulance was ready in an plane hangar to whisk him to hospital.

“If we hadn’t got him off the island then, he could easily have died,” she stated. “It was a life-endangering situation.”

“The air ambulance is an absolute lifeline to Tiree. We are 630 people on the island and I think if we didn’t have the service people would think twice about living here.”

About 60% of air ambulance flights are passenger transportation for incidents the place sufferers want further specialist therapy offered in larger hospitals. A single paramedic gives medical care en route which, in itself, has challenges at 12,000 toes.

Ian McKenzie joined the air ambulance service final 12 months, after working as a paramedic on Skye.

Today he’s flying a affected person again to the neighborhood hospital in Islay after therapy in Glasgow. Looking out of the window of the King Air mounted wing plane, he factors out that this isn’t a “bad place for an office”.

He says individuals dwelling on the islands might be reluctant to hunt assist.

“Especially when you are going out to places like the Western Isles, picking up these older patients,” he provides.

“Sometimes they’ve waited fairly a very long time earlier than accessing the assistance they want.

“I feel a giant a part of it isn’t eager to really feel like they’re being a burden on individuals and so they do not wish to search that assist until they really feel like they completely want it.”

Image caption,

Manager Kenny Mitchell believes demand for the air ambulance service will improve to take care of an ageing inhabitants and rural communities

In 2015, the addition of specialist emergency medication medical doctors and paediatric or neonatal nursing groups means crews can reply to a far wider vary of incidents.

That can contain attending main highway accidents or offering care on web site to critically sick sufferers in distant areas.

The variety of incidents crews reply to has risen considerably. Five years in the past they handled 3,500 call-outs (3,542 in 2018/2019). This previous 12 months it was nearly 4,200 (4,185 in 2022/23).

Kenny Mitchell is the final supervisor for the Scottish Air Ambulance Service. He says the rising older inhabitants and the challenges of delivering care in rural communities does appear to be growing the necessity for his or her companies.

“Due to staffing challenges or the usage of locums, it’s leading to us shifting more individuals and offering more help to distant and rural communities, however it’s arduous to quantify at this stage.”

The wider pressures affecting hospitals additionally impacts on the air ambulance service and Ian McKenzie says that may be very irritating whenever you’ve introduced a affected person to Glasgow:

“Although we have had possibly an hour’s journey to get right here, we’re nonetheless ready an hour, possibly more to get a crew to return and choose up that affected person and transport them to hospital after which they might have probably one other lengthy wait In a queue outdoors A&E someplace. So it’s irritating for us.”

Image supply, Scottish Ambulance Service

Image caption,

Paramedics journey with the mounted wing air ambulance aircraft and specialised paediatric groups might be deployed

The different main frustration confronted by crews is the Scottish climate.

The plane and helicopters have strict visibility limits for take off and touchdown and that may hamper many a mission.

Ian was as a result of fly to Kirkwall and Aberdeen to take care of sufferers however was unable to, as a result of unhealthy climate. For main emergencies, that may contain calling out the coastguard who can journey in more hostile climate circumstances.

A consultation is presently underway on the financing and way forward for the Scottish Air Ambulance Service. It is dear however thought of important by island and rural populations.

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