The Scottish Ambulance Service will operate one of the most advanced publicly funded air ambulance services in the world after taking delivery of two new purpose-built helicopters that are due to replace existing aircraft next month.
The two new Airbus H145 aircraft will replace the current EC135 helicopters, which have been in service since 2006. They are larger, and faster, with a greater range, which reduces the need to stop en route and refuel on longer missions.
They will enhance the quality of clinical care, with more room for teams to deliver complex treatment, as well as medical fittings and equipment that have been specifically designed to meet the needs identified by the clinicians who work on the aircraft.
The new H145s will be the first air ambulances in Scotland to operate with night vision equipment, which will allow greater access to remote and rural communities.
The helicopters will work alongside the two King Air 200c fixed wing aircraft, which have been refitted and upgraded to create more room for patient care along with new patient loading systems and satellite communications for improved consultation with referring hospitals during flight.
All four of the aircraft are operated as part of a £120m air ambulance contract awarded to Gama Aviation in 2013 that runs until 2020. Bond Air Services operate the helicopters on Gama’s behalf. The H145 helicopters will be based in Glasgow and Inverness and the King Air 200c aircraft operate from Glasgow and Aberdeen.
The Scottish Government has provided an additional £1.9m this year, and £200,000 for the next two years, to allow the Scottish Ambulance Service to fund the procurement of the larger helicopters.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said, “The quality and sophistication of the new technology that the crews will now have access to is impressive, particularly as this is the only publicly funded air ambulance service in the UK. Not only will the new aircraft improve patient care and experience for those that need an urgent response from the ambulance service, but will also help communities living in remote and rural areas.
“This investment demonstrates our continued commitment to the Scottish Ambulance Service, it’s staff and of course the patients who rely on the emergency service day in and day out across Scotland.”
David Garbutt, Chairman, Scottish Ambulance Service, said, “Our air ambulance service provides a vital lifeline to the people of Scotland, particularly those in remote and rural communities. The new helicopters, along with the refurbished planes, ensure that the air wing continues to one of the most advanced in the world providing the best possible in flight environment for the specialist clinicians to deliver consistently high standards of life saving patient care.”
Pauline Howie, Chief Executive, Scottish Ambulance Service, said, “The H145 helicopters, along with upgraded King Air planes, are the result of a four year consultation and procurement programme that involved key stakeholders, NHS clinicians, patients, carers and community groups. The result is a world-class air ambulance service that is future proofed and designed to specifically meet the needs of the people of Scotland.
“The air ambulance service is crewed by teams of dedicated clinicians and pilots who operate 24/7, 365 days of the year, bringing first class care to patients across the country.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service provides the only publicly funded air ambulance service in the UK. It flies around 3500 missions every year, the majority of which are planned inter hospital transfers. It is supported by Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance helicopter, which provides an additional resource, as well as coastguard and rescue services.