Partnership will see blood on board and help to save lives

Members of the Great North Air Ambulance team with hospital staff on the roof of the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) hospital in Newcastle, where they launched the new scheme which will see the craft start to carry blood on board. Picture by Will Walker/NNP
Members of the Great North Air Ambulance team with hospital staff on the roof of the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) hospital in Newcastle, where they launched the new scheme which will see the craft start to carry blood on board. Picture by Will Walker/NNP

A medical technique honed on the battlefields of Afghanistan comes to the North East for the first time today after months of research by trauma experts.

Blood on Board, a new service to carry blood on the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), was devised by emergency specialists at the Newcastle Hospitals’ Major Trauma Centre and GNAAS, for the benefit of patients across the North-East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

Northumbria Blood Bikes and Cumbria Blood Bikes, also charities, have stepped forward to facilitate the service by delivering blood from the hospital to the air ambulance on a daily basis, 365 days a year.

This new collaboration will help trauma specialists working with GNAAS and the Blood Bike groups save even more lives, by delivering emergency O-negative blood directly to the scene of life-threatening accidents.

Catastrophic blood loss due to serious injuries and accidents kills around 50 people in our region every year. The quicker patients receive blood transfusions following their injury, the better their chance of survival.

The Blood on Board collaboration means that for the first time, this life-saving treatment can commence where the patient is injured, whether on a roadside, a hilltop or in a remote community, rather than having to wait until they arrive at the emergency department.

Dr Rachel Hawes, consultant in anaesthesia and pre-hospital emergency medicine at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle works as an emergency doctor with GNAAS, and has over 15 years experience as an officer in the Territorial Army.

While deployed in Afghanistan, she saw military helicopters deliver blood transfusion supplies directly to the scene of severely injured patients.

She recognised the potential of applying this in the NHS and headed up the Blood on Board project in the North East and Cumbria alongside GNAAS and Northumbria and Cumbria Blood Bikes.

Dr Dave Bramley, medical director at GNAAS, said: “Our helicopters are never more than 25 minutes away from the nearest major trauma centre.

“Yet time is vital for patients with life-threatening bleeds and so having blood on board, delivered by our Blood Bike colleagues, will make a real difference to saving people’s lives.

“We are very proud to be able to set up this pioneering approach, together with blood bikes and one of the largest major trauma centres in the country.”