In the early stages of the pandemic, Public Health England (PHE) provided guidance that patients with suspected COVID-19 disease should not be carried by aircraft. This prevented critical care patients, with a suspicion of having COVID-19, from being transported to hospital by helicopter. Throughout this initial period, we continued to deliver our critical care team to incident scenes by helicopter, while land ambulances assisted us with transferring them to hospital.

In parallel, an immense collaborative approach between Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, SWASfT, Specialist Aviation Services and PHE began, with an aim of enabling all critical care patients to once again be carried by air. This required physical alterations to the airframe of our aircraft and changes to the team’s operating procedures. You can read more about this within Unit Chief Pilot, Mario Carretta’s article on keeping crew and patients safe. Because of the collaborative and evidence driven approach and the work that was achieved, national guidance from PHE was changed on 14th May 2020. Within days, we made the transition to carrying any undifferentiated patient by air – if appropriate to the needs of the patient.

NEXT: Delivering pre-hospital critical care and rapid carriage of patients to hospital by air