Case studies

Rachel is a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Prehospital Emergency Medicine and Medic with the Great North Air Ambulance

Dr Rachel | Consultant in Anaesthesia and Prehospital Emergency Medicine

Army Reservist

I’ve had a great time in the Army Reserve. I joined as a medical student and have continued to have a fulfilling NHS and ‘Army Reserve’ career all the way through to becoming a Consultant (there are only a handful of people in the UK who’ve achieved this).

My Clinical Director has always been supportive to me being able to undertake the two week annual training camp each year, and I fit the other weekends and evening in, in my spare time. I have found that both careers have been mutually beneficial, and both the Trust and I have both gained a lot from this.

In 2011 I deployed to Afghanistan and received outstanding training and experience as a Trauma Anaesthetist which would not have otherwise been available to me in the NHS.  I have been able to bring lessons learned back to the NHS and these have led to direct improvements in trauma care at the RVI.

Blood transfusions are now being given "on-scene" to patients left critically injured in road accidents due to the "Blood on Board" service. The service was introduced in the North East and Cumbria in January 2015.

Northumbria Blood Bikes and Cumbria Blood Bikes, also charities, have stepped forward to facilitate the service by delivering blood from the hospital to the air ambulance on a daily basis, 365 days a year.

“Blood on Board” means that, for the first time, life-saving treatment can commence where the patient is injured, whether on a road-side, on a hill-top or in a remote community, rather than having to wait until they arrive at the Emergency Department.

During my deployment in Afghanistan, I saw military helicopters deliver blood transfusion supplies directly to the scene of severely injured patients. I recognised the potential of applying this in the NHS and headed up the “Blood on Board” project in the North East and Cumbria alongside GNAAS, and Northumbria and Cumbria Blood Bikes.

Replacing major blood loss for critically injured patients as quickly as possible is vital. Emergency doctors and paramedics working with GNAAS are specially trained and extremely experienced at stabilising patients at the scene of an accident prior to transferring them to the nearest Major Trauma Centre. For trauma patients, this often then means an immediate blood transfusion which can be lifesaving.

We’re very proud this service is now running across the North East and Cumbria and it has already saved a number of lives.

In May 2016 a new technique began to be trialled carrying Fresh Frozen Plasma on board the GNAAS aircraft as well as blood. It is hoped that by giving a more balanced transfusion, using equal volumes of red blood cells and plasma, we can help save even more lives.  Find out more here.

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