HM Coastguard helicopters to be used for hospital transfers

Newquay Coastguard Rescue Helicopter on exercise on the North Cornwall Coast Newquay Coastguard Rescue Helicopter on exercise on the North Cornwall Coast

An agreement has been signed to make it easier for HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopters to respond to requests to transport seriously ill or injured adult patients between NHS hospitals in England.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will see coastguard helicopters take patients between hospitals across west and south-west England.

The collaboration between the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Retrieve Adult Critical Care Transfer Service, hosted by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), could provide a blueprint for future relationships between the MCA and other transfer services across the country.

The agreement, the first of its kind in England, is a memorandum of understanding between the MCA, which is responsible for the helicopters, and UHBW.

It involves the red and white HM Coastguard helicopters, which are a familiar sight in search and rescue operations.

They are sometimes also sent to support the NHS to fly seriously ill or injured patients, medical teams and equipment to cut the time spent travelling between hospitals for specialist care.

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere says: “Collaboration across sectors can result in improved outcomes and could ultimately save lives.”

NHS waiting lists are at an all-time high, with one in 10 waiting 12 hours in A&E. An estimated 7.22 million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of February, the highest total since records began in 2007, according to figures from NHS England.

Newquay coastguard helicopter - rear access

The new memorandum sets out the relationship between the two organisations, with Retrieve gaining “Trusted Partner” status, allowing the service to contact HM Coastguard directly for assistance with these kinds of missions.

The aim is to simplify the process and improve the speed and efficiency of transfer for these critical patients.

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard, says: “In serious medical situations, every second counts and this agreement will help critically ill and injured patients across the south west of England by transporting them to where they need treatment by the NHS.

“We’re proud to be in the first group of public bodies in England to work together in this way to make the very best use of our search and rescue helicopters, making a real difference to seriously ill adult patients.

“We hope this blueprint agreement is the first of many between public bodies around the country.”

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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