Scottish Government
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Flying doctors take to the air

Scotland's 'flying doctor' service is to be rolled out to remote and rural parts of the country, following a successful pilot scheme in the west of Scotland.

The service, staffed by air paramedics and consultants who are specialists in emergency medicine, will fly across Scotland to treat critically-ill patients on the spot. Since it began in June 2008, the team has undertaken 565 retrievals and given advice to a further 469 patients.

The decision to expand the service was taken after an evaluation of the pilot programme concluded that it offered good quality healthcare, value for money in terms of benefits for patients and significant support for healthcare staff working in remote areas.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Getting the best possible medical help to a critically-ill patient, or someone who has been seriously injured, as rapidly as possible can significantly improve their changes of making a full recovery.

"But critical illness or injury can strike anywhere and patients are often some distance from the essential medical treatment they need. That's where the EMRS comes in - experienced accident and emergency or intensive care consultants fly to patients in remote and rural communities.

"This early intervention can make the difference between life and death and that is why we have decided to establish Scotland's flying doctors as a national service, delivering first class healthcare to all rural parts of the country."

Among those who have benefitted from the service is Kerry MacNeill, 52, from Islay who suffered a heart attack. She said:

"I had been feeling unwell and was taken to the local hospital. I was given an ECG and I was astonished to be told that I was having a heart attack. The doctor called the emergency retrieval team and I was seen by an emergency medicine consultant. Then I was taken by helicopter to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow where I was treated by cardiologists.

"I could not have asked for better treatment. The emergency team is a godsend for people like me who live in rural areas and are far away from specialist hospitals. I am lucky to be here and if it was not for the emergency retrieval team I might not have made it. I am delighted to hear it is going to be available for people in all parts of the country. On the day that I was treated, the team received another two calls from the Argyll area. It really is a lifeline for rural communities."

David Stoddart, an emergency medicine consultant based at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, is a founder member of the service and led the team that treated Mrs MacNeill. He said:

"Mrs MacNeill was quite unstable. Her blood pressure was low high and her heart rate was slow and irregular. Prior to the introduction of the EMRS, she would possibly have been transferred by air ambulance to the mainland where she would have been assessed and then taken to a specialist unit.

"The benefit of the EMRS is that the patient can be assessed by critical care specialists and paramedics at the referring centre. The team is able to put in place critical care interventions to optimise the patient's condition prior to taking them to the most appropriate specialist hospital. In Mrs MacNeill's case, she had had a heart attack and therefore was taken to the cardiac unit at the Golden Jubilee.

"There is no doubt that lives have been saved because the EMRS is available. Patients are treated more rapidly by specialist doctors and, as a result, their long-term recovery and quality of life is much improved.

"Providing the best quality care for patients no matter where they live is the driving force behind the EMRS and will continue to be after the roll out of the national service."

Dr Intesar Malik, a consultant at Caithness General Hospital, said:

"It's absolutely wonderful to see this service extended to cover all of remote and rural Scotland including Caithness and Sutherland. It will help to ensure people in remote and rural areas can get access to specialist care as safely and as quickly as possible.

"The EMRS team also provides telephone advice to local doctors providing an important source of professional support. The introduction of this service will also reduce the number of times a local doctor has to travel out of the area with a patient so it complements and strengthens the whole service."


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