Life saving plasma to be carried on the region's air ambulance

Great North East Air Ambulance.
Great North East Air Ambulance.
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The region’s Blood on Board experts are launching a new life-saving technique.

Major trauma patients across the region will benefit from yet another life-saving medical approach, as the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) today begins to carry defrosted Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) on board its aircraft.

The charity already carries red blood cells on board, enabling their specially trained medics to give blood transfusions to patients with life-threatening bleeding either on board, or at the roadside.

This revolutionary approach recently celebrated its first anniversary in service when representatives from the organisations involved met patients who are alive today because of the rapid blood transfusions they were given at the scene of their accident.

GNAAS teamed up with Newcastle Hospitals and the blood bikes charities in Northumbria and Cumbria and the Henry Surtees Foundation to make that project possible.

Now, the team has taken it one step further by carrying plasma, which provides vital clotting components to help blood clots to form and to stop bleeding.

GNAAS is one of the very first air ambulance charities in the UK to carry plasma on board, which when given together with the blood, is thought will offer patients an even better chance of survival.

Dr Rachel Hawes, the Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) and GNAAS aircrew doctor who brought ‘blood on board’ to the North of England, explains the importance of this new development, saying: "Blood on board has allowed us to greatly improve outcomes for our trauma patients. Yet scientific studies suggest that up to 30% of trauma patients with severe bleeding are no longer able to form blood clots normally by the time they arrive in the emergency department."

This means that when the patients are in a condition known as coagulopathy, with the bleeding spiralling out of control.

She said: "By giving a more balanced transfusion, using equal volumes of red blood cells and plasma, we hope to prevent this happening to our critically ill patients, ultimately helping to save their lives.

“We are delighted to be in a position to provide the most up to date, clinical techniques.”

A three month trial begins today using the same cool boxes which were kindly donated by the Henry Surtees Foundation, which also provided blood warmers and two 4x4 vehicles to support the Blood Bikes with their transportation during poor weather.

The cool boxes keep their content cool for up to 48 hours and so if not used, they are returned to the RVI to be used during surgery and other procedures in the hospital.

Dr Hawes said: "To carry out a regional programme of this scale, across one of the most challenging geographical areas in the UK, takes great dedication and strong collaborative working. Blood, and now pre-hospital plasma on board the GNAAS aircraft, simply wouldn’t be feasible without the strength of our partnerships and without the support of the public, whose donations make it all possible.”