The unique partnerships that the Wales Air Ambulance Charity has developed to create a world-leading medical service have been recognised by the UK’s thought leaders for collaborative working.

The Charity, and its collaborative partners NHS Wales, were presented with the Social Impact Award by the Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW) during an event at the House of Lords, recently. The accolade recognised how the service has evolved as a result of effective partnership working and is pushing the boundaries for those in need.

The air ambulance service in Wales is now one of the most advanced in Europe. This unique Third Sector-Public Sector partnership, created in 2015, resulted in the formation of the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru), more commonly known as the ‘Welsh Flying Medics’.

The service, which takes the emergency room to the patient, is made up of consultants and critical care practitioners who are able to deliver emergency treatments usually not available outside of a hospital environment. The medics are able to conduct blood transfusions, administer anaesthetics, offer strong painkillers, and conduct a range of medical procedures – all at the scene of an incident. In addition, patients are airlifted to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury, saving valuable time.

As a part of the ICW Awards process, representatives from the Charity and NHS Wales gave a presentation about the partnership and how it has been so successful. They spoke about important aspects of collaboration required for effective partnership working and value creation for the people of Wales.

Professor David Lockey, ‘Welsh Flying Medics’ National Director, said: “The process of developing the ‘Welsh Flying Medics’ service started in 2012, driven by Dr Dindi Gill and Dr Rhys Thomas. It was influenced by a number of Welsh Government national drivers for change, as well as the Charity’s desire to deliver the best service for Wales. Following detailed engagement with the Charity’s Trustees and senior management team, and NHS Wales, the new consultant-led service started operating in April 2015.”

As a result of the partnership, an independently scrutinised evaluation by Swansea University has found that the service:

  • has shortened the time it takes for critically ill patients to receive consultant-led treatment.
  • results in more Welsh people having equal access to timely consultant-led treatment in an emergency.
  • has relieved pressure on frontline NHS emergency services.
  • has supported the development of skills and knowledge in critical and emergency care for NHS Wales employees.
  • has supported the recruitment of consultants into Wales.

Angela Hughes, the Charity’s Chief Executive, said: “It is a complex partnership, which also includes our aviation partners Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore. However, our shared goal of helping those in need gave us the will and determination to plan and create a service that is now delivering the best possible care for Wales. This has been made possible thanks to the skills and dedication of both Charity, NHS Wales and Babcock employees. Due to the success of what we are achieving, we have received visits and requests for support from air ambulance operations across the world.

“One of the most important partners we have are the people of Wales. Without them, we would not be able to run the helicopter operation. This very much an award for Wales.”

With members including some of the world’s biggest multinational companies, the aim of the ICW is to establish collaborative working as a professional business discipline. They help organisations, large and small, in both the public and private sectors, to build and develop effective competitive business relationships based on collaborative working good practice.

Leigh Lawry, ICW Wales Associate Director, said: “The decision of the ICW judging panel was overwhelmingly in favour of recognising the unique approach developed by Wales Air Ambulance as a demonstration of how the public sector, voluntary sector and industry can collaborate together for the greater good. ICW and ICW-Wales were delighted that representatives from the Wales Air Ambulance could join us for the Awards ceremony where we could publicly acknowledge the great work they do and the benchmark that Wales has established in collaborative working.”