It’s a new era for air ambulance patients in Dorset and Somerset as they welcome a new helicopter to the fleet, the AgustaWestland 169.
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is delighted that its new AgustaWestland 169 (AW169) helicopter entered into service on 12 June. This becomes the first AW169 to enter air ambulance operational service in the UK and is the culmination of years of planning and development.
The aircraft was selected following an extensive evaluation process. Its outstanding characteristics, superior capabilities and safety standards will ensure unprecedented levels of mission effectiveness and provide an enhanced lifesaving service for the people of Dorset and Somerset.
Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer said, “It has always been the charity’s aim and clear vision to pursue clinical excellence; pairing Critical Care Teams with the outstanding capabilities of the AW169 s is a natural development of that vision. Patient benefit remains our top priority and this was the single biggest criteria in selecting the new aircraft.
“Our ambitions and clinical aspirations determined a particular requirement from whichever aircraft we selected. The capabilities and flexibility offered by the AW169 made it a clear winner and in our view it was the only aircraft which fully met our criteria. Another major plus in selecting a new mark of aircraft is that you are taking advantage of the latest advances in technology. That means it is safer and easier to maintain and operate.”
The medical equipment in the AW169 will not be hugely different to that carried on the charity’s previous aircraft; however, the biggest difference is the space inside the cabin. This allows the Critical Care Team to have complete access to a patient, head to toe; a significant benefit if a patient needs further intervention or treatment on-route to hospital.
Over the past few months, the lifesaving service has increased its operating hours from 12 to 19 hours a day (7am – 2am). During this time and in the hours of darkness, the crews have been deployed using a Critical Care Car.
Bill continues, “We are most grateful to Specialist Aviation Services who operate the AW169 helicopter on our behalf. They have worked closely with our clinical team to develop a medical interior that will enable them to more fully meet the needs of our patients than ever before.
“The AW169’s night flying capabilities mean that we can now move forward into providing full night HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) missions. Our team will have the ability to fly directly to the patient without the need of any fixed or pre-established lighting which is a significant advantage. We are now looking forward to completing night HEMS training and subsequently operating the new aircraft for 19 hours a day.
“Our approach has been truly innovative and as a result the AW169 has had to undergo very intense scrutiny by the European Aviation Safety Agency. This is why it has taken a little longer than we had hoped for the aircraft to become operational. However, it has certainly been worth the wait and we are delighted to now have clearance to fly.
“The standard of clinical provision delivered by our Critical Care Team is arguably the best available anywhere. That is a bold claim but one that I make quite confidently. In the past year we have enhanced our team clinically, enhanced the service with the carriage of blood products, increased our operational hours and can now ensure that these are all delivered in one of the most advanced helicopters available.
“This, however, does not mean that we can rest on our laurels; our crews strive continuously to develop their knowledge and skills to ensure that the patients they attend receive the best treatment possible. Their challenge to the charity is to provide them with the right tools for the job. I am proud to say that we can meet that challenge head on because of the incredible support of the people of Dorset and Somerset. Through their support, as members of our Flight for Life Lottery, individual or group donations from events, and even by remembering us in their wills, they enable us to be everything that they want from their air ambulance.”
More information on Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance can be found by visiting www.dsairambulance.org.uk or by calling: 01823 669604.