40% of major trauma patients die in the UK because of blood loss. Of these deaths, between 33-56% occur before the patient reaches hospital. Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) has been carrying blood products since 2016. Since then, over 200 patients have received blood in the pre-hospital environment.

Our critical care team only give blood products to patients in the pre-hospital environment, if the patient is unlikely to survive to get to hospital without them. By carrying blood products on our aircraft and cars, more patients reach hospital alive and more patients are given the opportunity of surviving their injuries and returning home.

The setup costs for providing a pre-hospital blood transfusion service are not small. Specialist freezers are required within the hospital, in which to cool packaging to -30°C to keep the blood cool for up to three days. Credo Cubes house the blood and contain a specialist temperature data logger to ensure the ‘cold chain’ is maintained, specialist blood warming devices are required to warm the blood to body temperature as it is given to the patient and vehicles are required to take the blood from the hospital to our airbase.

In June 2016, a collaboration with Dorset County Hospital, Devon Freewheelers, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASfT) and the Henry Surtees Foundation, resulted in patients across Dorset and Somerset being able to receive blood components at the scene of an incident. The Henry Surtees Foundation kindly provided us with financial assistance to cover the initial set-up costs of our blood service, together with the leasing costs of a Vauxhall Mokka 4x4 vehicle, to enable the blood to be delivered to our team. Your blood, their lives It is with thanks to members of the public, who willingly give their blood to help others, that we can offer a transfusion service to our patients. NHS Blood & Transplant collect the blood that you donate, separate it into component parts and distribute it to hospitals around the UK.

Support from Dorset County Hospital

All the blood products that we carry are provided by the transfusion laboratory at Dorset County Hospital, based in Dorchester. Maraneka Greenslade and her amazing team of staff have been instrumental in developing protocols and procedures to ensure that we are never without a range of blood products, with which they can help to preserve life. Every 48 hours, new blood and plasma is sent to our airbase. At the same time, any unused blood is returned and re-enters the hospital stock, with preservation of the cold chain being certified by interrogation of the accompanying data loggers. Dorset County Hospital also provide us with specialist dried blood products to help patients to clot and stop their bleeding process.

Vital Service from Devon Freewheelers

Devon Freewheelers are the volunteers who bring the blood from the hospital to our airbase every 48 hours, return any unused blood and undertake special unscheduled deliveries every time blood is used. This ensures that our critical care team always have blood products available for their next mission. Over the last year, their team of eight volunteer drivers have made 230 deliveries to Henstridge. This total is made up of 189 scheduled deliveries, plus 41 unscheduled deliveries to replenish the blood at short notice (day or night). They work 365 days a year and have a driver on standby 24/7.