Consultants and critical care practitioners will now fly on board all of Wales Air Ambulance’s HEMS aircraft, as the Welsh flying medics expand into North Wales.

This week the Welsh flying medic service climbed on board Wales Air Ambulance’s Caernarfon aircraft, launching the expansion of the enhanced service that will now cover North Wales.

The critical care team, made up of consultant level doctors and critical care practitioners, came on board Wales Air Ambulance in 2015 as a phased-in service, initially working on the charity’s South Wales and Welshpool aircraft.

Monday August 14 marked the service’s expansion onto Wales Air Ambulance’s North Wales aircraft, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Vaughan Gething AM, visited the Welsh helicopter charity’s airbase in Caernarfon for the launch.

The service is the result of a unique partnership between the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, Welsh Government and the NHS, to bring an enhanced service to the roadside and provide pioneering pre-hospital critical and emergency medical care across Wales.

The Service, which flies the A&E department to the patients, is made up of Welsh Government-funded NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who can deliver innovative emergency treatments usually not available outside the hospital environment – flying to the patient on board the Wales Air Ambulance’s aircraft, which is funded through charitable donations.

The introduction of consultants and critical care practitioners onto Wales Air Ambulance means that the service can conduct blood transfusions, administer anaesthetics, offer strong painkillers, and conduct a range of medical procedures at the scene of an incident.

Angela Hughes, Wales Air Ambulance Charity Chief Executive, said: “The innovative equipment and treatments that we have introduced have attracted international attention, with many Helimed services across the world looking to adopt the Welsh model.

“Our heartfelt thanks go to the people of Wales for raising the £6.5m each year needed to keep the four helicopters flying. We are serving Wales and saving lives.”

Every year, Wales Air Ambulance needs to raise lifesaving funds to keep its helicopters flying, and the charity’s operations have expanded and changed drastically since its launch on St David’s Day in 2001. Wales Air Ambulance first started as a single-helicopter service operating from Swansea airport five days a week, and now, thanks to the support the charity receives, WAA is the largest air ambulance operation in the UK, with airbases in Llanelli, Welshpool, Cardiff and Caernarfon.

Prior to the addition of the critical care team to the charity’s service, Wales Air Ambulance’s aircraft was occupied by HEMs trained paramedics, and the addition of the new crew in 2015 enhanced the service the charity could bring to an incident, now able to provide pioneering treatment at the roadside.

Initially, the critical care team began flying on board the charity’s Welshpool and South Wales aircraft to phase in the new team, and with the addition to the new Caernarfon crew, all of Wales Air Ambulance’s HEMS aircraft will by occupied by consultant level doctors and critical care practitioners.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said: “I welcome this initiative that will enhance the existing service from Caernarfon and bring it in line with the rest of the EMRTS cover enjoyed elsewhere.

“It will bring access to critical care and emergency medicine much closer for people living in North Wales and ensure that they can get the best care more quickly.

“The new helicopter and rapid response vehicle available at the airbase will protect the existing WAA service and make the area more attractive to the very best clinicians and critical care practitioners. It will play a vital role in the provision of high quality unscheduled care across North Wales.”