Specialist night operations training for pre-hospital emergency medical doctors and critical care paramedics in the South Central Region took place at Thames Valley Air Ambulance’s state-of-the art training and simulation centre in December 2015.

Developed by Dr Syed Masud (Clinical Governance Lead for TVAA and Consultant in Emergency Medicine & Pre Hospital Care at the John Radcliffe Hospital) and Kevin Letchford (Lead Paramedic for Training and Simulation for TVAA), the course prepares medical teams for night-time Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) to ensure the highest level of care is delivered to seriously ill and injured patients in the challenging night-time pre-hospital environment.

The advanced training model saw doctors and paramedics from both the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance crews undertake three advanced trauma scenarios, working together to build the ‘paramedic physician partnership’ that is essential for a truly gold standard delivery of pre-hospital emergency medicine.

Using state-of-the-art simulation mannequins and live recording ability, where breathing, vital signs and reactivity based on medical decisions can be controlled by IPad software, the crews were tested on full general anaesthesia, immediate pre-hospital blood transfusion and advanced ultrasound techniques under the conditions and challenges faced by night-time operations. The crews will directly transfer these skills to the field when both air ambulance services launch night HEMS in early 2016.

Dr Masud said: “Undertaking emergency pre-hospital care at night brings new challenges to air ambulance operations, most obviously working with no, or little light. This course paves the way for advanced critical trauma care that ensures that no matter what time of the day or night, our crews are equipped with the expertise and knowledge to treat and stabilise patients at the scene or in flight. What people thought could only be done in hospital is now being done in minutes by the roadside.”

Kevin Letchford commented “Simulation within the medical world has come on massively over the last decade. Many felt it was confined to in-hospital scenarios however technology has allowed us to take it to the next stage in reference to pre-hospital emergency medicine. On this course we have simulated night time in flight emergencies as well night time roadside scenarios. We have mirrored reality as closely as possible specially in reference to night operations.”

Mark McGeown, CEO of Thames Valley Air Ambulance added: “This course shows that our Charity and the South Central Ambulance Service are committed to developing and enhancing the helicopter emergency service in our region to provide the highest level of care for patients who need us at any time of the day or night.”

TVAA’s aviation partner Bond Air Services Ltd and their highly skilled helimed pilots are also central to the service, ensuring the most effective coverage for the entire region, as well as the speed, safety and precision of the operation.

“We are extremely proud of our air ambulance and its crew. Night operations will provide a huge step up to a higher level of capability and this is a result of the very close partnerships we have with the NHS and South Central Ambulance Service. But it is also important to remember that our ambition of delivering a gold standard service is dependent on the generosity of the people, companies and organisations who support us.”