Yorkshire Air Ambulance has started carrying blood on board their helicopters recently, enabling critically injured patients to receive transfusions at the scene of accidents or in the air.

The potentially life-saving initiative has been funded through a donation of more than £16,000 from the Henry Surtees Foundation.

The Foundation was founded by motor sport legend John Surtees CBE, following the tragic death of his son Henry, killed aged just 18 whilst competing in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2009.

Leonora Surtees-Martell, daughter of the late John Surtees said: “The Henry Surtees Foundation is delighted to support the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Charity with a grant of £16,000.

“The service that they provide is vital and something which is continuously developing. The swift medical intervention provided by the Air Ambulance crews, gives patients a far greater chance of survival and subsequent quality of life.”

The donation has paid for specially designed, thermostatically controlled boxes for the safe transport and storage of blood, as well as the equipment needed to warm it prior to transfusion.

Dr Jez Pinnell, Medical Adviser at Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “People with traumatic injuries are at greater risk from bleeding to death so having blood available on the air ambulance will benefit those patients prior to arriving at hospital. 

“It will buy us extra time and allow us to replace the blood they’re losing. I believe it will be a great step forward in enhancing care for patients when they most need it and would like to thank our partners in making this possible.”

Blood is being supplied by the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and will be delivered from Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield by the Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes charity service.

Mandy O’Shea, Chief Biomedical Scientist – Blood Transfusion at the Trust, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project. As a department, we have been responsible for developing and delivering training to all those involved in the process, including the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bike volunteers.

“Having blood on board the Yorkshire Air Ambulance will make a significant difference to those critically ill patients requiring a blood transfusion at the scene.”

Blood will initially be carried on the Yorkshire Air Ambulance flying from the charity’s air support unit at Nostell, near Wakefield, which has a doctor on board. Further paramedic training is planned to enable the service to be extended to its second helicopter based at RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk later this year.

Paranjit Bharaj, Regional and Blood on Board Project Manager for Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes added:

“Providing the daily, ‘Blood On Board’ delivery service from the Pinderfield Hospital to the Air Support Unit at Nostell is a service we have easily adapted to as we operate a fleet of cars and motorcycles to provide an ‘out of hours’ urgent transportation service, which is free to the NHS, to support hospitals and hospices across Yorkshire.

“It seemed a logical progression that Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes were most suited to supporting the wonderful work of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance in this way.”

Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) serves 5million people across Yorkshire and carries out over 1,250 missions every year. The charity operates two, state-of-the-art Airbus H145 helicopters and needs to raise £12,000 every day to keep saving lives.

The blood on board initiative is the latest service enhancing development at the rapid response emergency service which has also started night flying operations recently.

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