We have been extremely busy over the past six months, running an increased service while continuing our packed programme of training and workshops.

Last year (2017/18), Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance was mobilised to 1,197 incidents; an increase of 35% on the previous year. Statistics also show that we treated almost double the number of patients last year than we did five years ago. Those who needed our help were an even mix of both medically ill and traumatically injured patients. Time-critical inter-hospital transfers also rose significantly last year to 21; five times the number transferred in 2012/13. 

As many of you will be aware, night operations began in November 2017 and there have been some startling examples of lives saved by the availability, delivery and actions of our crew. The number of patients reached and treated during 2018/19 is expected to rise once again, with our nocturnal operations accounting for at least a third of this activity.

DSAA team development

Our monthly training programme continues to give the team an opportunity to practise new skills, develop trusting relationships and work together. These simulation-based exercises utilise our clinical training facility at Henstridge and include the use of manikins, simulation monitors and training bags, which enable the team to immerse themselves as much as possible. The last few months has seen our training focus on penetrating injuries, extricating patients from difficult spaces and keeping up to date with new evidence through a Journal Club. In May, we concentrated on aviation and had an update session from our colleagues at St Athans Coastguard and a talk from the internationally acclaimed Professor Kevin Fong.


Owen Hammett, Steve Westbrook, Lauren Dyson, Ollie Zorab and Mike Eddie continue with their University Master’s Degree, having all sat the end of second year assessments. Michelle Walker, Lauren Dyson, Ollie Zorab, Steve Westbrook and James Keegan sat the Diploma of Immediate Medical Care exam (DIMC) at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in July 2018. Mark Williams, Nick Foster, Rob Dawes, Tony Doyle and Phil Hyde volunteered their time to be examiners in the July 2018 national pre-hospital examinations at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, while Leonie Middle and Claire Baker will volunteer their time in January 2019.

Blood products

Our Critical Care Team has been using blood products since 2016. During this time, blood has been transfused to 72 patients, drastically improving their chances of getting to hospital alive. As well as using packed red cells (blood), the team has also used freeze-dried plasma (a yellow component of blood, separated at the time of donation, which contains clotting factors and helps to stop patients from bleeding). However, within the last six months, on a global level, freeze-dried plasma has become more and more difficult to source.

On 17th July 2018, we went live with ‘shock packs’, which contain four units of blood and four units of thawed plasma in its liquid form. Thawed plasma is something that is normally associated with Major Trauma Centres such as Southampton or Southmead Hospitals. Having these products immediately at hand means that our team has an amazing resource with which to resuscitate both adults and children who are suffering from severe trauma, or other conditions in which very large quantities of blood have been lost. On behalf of our team and the patients who will benefit from this incredible resource, our thanks go to:

  • The public who donate their blood and NHS Blood & Transplant who process it.
  • The Henry Surtees Foundation, which helped with our blood transfusion set-up costs.
  • Dorset County Hospital, which provides the blood products and packages them specially to withstand carriage on the helicopter.
  • The Devon Freewheelers, who collect and transport the blood products to and from the airbase, also replenishing our supplies rapidly when they are used
  • The supporters of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and our trustees, without whom none of this would be possible.


Our Outreach Programme continues to be instrumental in building trust, increasing knowledge and saving lives. The project exists not only to forge and improve relations across the emergency services community, but also to inspire those who are caring for critically ill or injured patients. 

Several events have been held that involve our inter-agency colleagues (Police, Fire and Rescue, HM Coastguard (air and land), SWASFT Hazardous Area Response Team and RNLI). These have been extremely successful and take place away from the pressures of an incident scene. They enable us to share ideas and experiences while explaining the different capabilities of us all. They have also been instrumental in improving communication, building trust and working as a team at the scene of an incident where multiple agencies are present.

Community first responders (CFR) are often first at the scene of an incident. They deliver important life-saving care and provide initial updates on a patient’s condition. Our team have spent time with this wonderful group of volunteers attending meetings and encouraging early reporting of patients that concern them, so that early activation of our Critical Care Team is possible.

Our Ambulance Service colleagues on the road are present at almost every critical care incident we attend. We have a continuous calendar of ‘acquaint days’, where together we participate in workshops, scenarios and group discussions on topics such as pre-hospital emergency anaesthesia (PHEA), blood product administration, ultrasound and surgical procedures. These have all been well attended and, in many cases, have had a direct benefit on patients’ lives. In addition to these days being held at Henstridge, we are now organising them more locally to allow more people to attend.

Ambulance Service managers and operational officers provide a strategic overview at incidents. As well as treating patients, they are responsible for safety on scene, emergency services communication and collaboration and post-incident staff welfare and support. A successful acquaint day resulted in a greater understanding of the complexity of this role and several positive suggestions were made, which have already been implemented.

We continue to work with the third-year students at Bournemouth University (soon to qualify as paramedics) and hope to extend this to more yeargroups in due course. Additionally, we have attended the Bournemouth University and University of West England (SWASFT) conferences, which gave us an opportunity to meet and discuss career pathways with the paramedics of the future.

If you are one of our Emergency Services colleagues or a student and would like to find out more about Outreach and how to get involved, please email: [email protected]