Flying doctors flying high


Scotland's flying doctor service, which enables specialist doctors to fly to treat the most critically ill patients on the spot, is being extended throughout remote and rural Scotland.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said that the rollout of the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service, following a successful pilot in the West of Scotland, would allow more patients to benefit from fast access to specialist treatment.

Ms Sturgeon said:

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

"But critical illness and injury can happen anywhere. Patients will often be some distance from the essential medical treatment they need.

"That's where the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service comes in - flying experienced accident and emergency or intensive care consultants to patients in remote and rural communities.

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

Grant Archibald, Director of Emergency Care and Medical Services, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said:

"I am delighted at the decision to establish the Emergency Medical Retrieval service on a two team basis which will enable EMRS to cover all of remote and rural Scotland.

"NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been pleased to host the EMRS since the pilot began in June 2008 and it is, therefore, pleasing to see that the hard work and efforts of the team as well as their invaluable contribution to remote and rural healthcare have been recognised with continuation and expansion of the service following the end of the pilot period.

"As such, we look forward to continuing our work with partners across NHS Scotland and ensuring the continued success of this service."

EMRS enhances the Scottish Ambulance Service's existing Air Ambulance Service - which is staffed by air paramedics who are specialists in emergency care and flies around 3,000 missions annually - by providing the early intervention of a consultant where required.

An evaluation of the pilot scheme was carried out and concluded that the services offered were high quality, good value for money in terms of benefits for patients, and a significant support for healthcare staff working in remote and rural areas.

The EMRS is based in Glasgow and will continue to operate from its existing base. The service will be extended to a two team, one site service by October 2010. It will cover all of remote and rural Scotland.

The costs of running the service are expected to be in the region of £2 million annually.