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23 September 2013, 16:55
Herts Air Ambulance takes off around 700 times a year as crews try to save the lives of critically ill people across the county- ahead of National Air Ambulance Week, Heart spent two days observing the crew.
On board every flight by Herts Air Ambulance is one pilot, one doctor and one paramedic.
No only does the team have the advantage of being able to get to patients and to specialist hospitals quicker than a land ambulance but they are also able to use more medicines and have more advanced skills.
Another difference in the two services is the way they are funded.
The East of England Ambulance Service who cover Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire receive money from the government
Herts Air Ambulance are a charity and rely on donations.
Hannah Ashby is a fundraiser for Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust, she says they have to raise £440,000 every month: "Its quite an expensive operation to run the service, helicopters don't come cheap and we have two, one in North Weald covering Hertfordshire and one in Earls Colne covering Essex. There’s also numerous bits of equipment that we need to equipped the helicopter with and they all vary in costs. One of the most expensive bits of equipment onboard is a patient monitor that doubles up as a defibrillator that alone costs £25,000"
Every time the helicopters is called out on a job it costs the charity £2,500
This means the HEMS team (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) only go to the most serious medical emergencies.
Most of their time is spent working with patients in a life threatening position
Adam Carr is a Paramedic, he says: "We do see a lot of challenging sights and we have to deal with those as best we can but obviously we have a job to do and that task sort of takes over our mind. Anything to do with children are the hardest jobs to deal with, one because its a lot more scary treating a small person and also its the sort of job you reflect on a lot more."
The most common calls Herts Air Ambulance get are for Road Traffic Collisions (RTC) where the crew have to perform life saving procedures by the roadside and in cars
Despite the challenges this brings, Doctor Ben Clarke told Heart it can be very rewarding:
"I get to see patients who perhaps 10-15 years ago wouldn't have survived, it may be messy sometimes and it may be cold, wet and dreary but in all honesty when you have that reward it can never be replaced by working in a warm and comfy hospital"
Former RAF pilot David Kerr-Sheppard now flies the Herts Air Ambulance, he told Heart there’s a lot of pressure when flying the team to a medical emergency:
“The job can be challenging, the weather is a challenge particularly in the winter months but also because we're being sent to areas that we've never seen before so we have to make sure the area is safe for landing free from buildings, people, livestock and particularly from wires"
Heart reporter Amy Woodfield spent two days with the team:
“When going out with the Herts Air Ambulance team there was so much to think about and not much time to do it
“As soon as the phone rung David would start up the helicopter, Adam would be planning the route to the scene and Ben would be thinking about ways to treat the patient
“As well as this, everyone’s focusing on getting on the aircraft safely
“One job we went to was an RTC in Stevenage where the passenger had hurt her neck
“On the way there, the crew are talking about what to expect when they arrive and communicating with air traffic control
“We landed in a nearby park and saw the East of England Ambulance Service were already at the scene of the crash
“The paramedic handed over to Ben who examined the patient and decided there was no need for the helicopter to take her to a major trauma unit
“After helping to get her out the car Ben, Adam and David were ready to go leaving the patient in the hands of the land ambulance crew
“When we got back to the airfield in North Weald the team debriefed to make sure everyone was happy with the way the job went- in this case everyone feels fine
“During the two days I spent with Herts Air Ambulance they were called to four jobs, two each day, but luckily none of the patients needed any major treatment from the HEMS crew"
One person who knows all about the work the of the HEMS in Hertfordshire is 23 year old Kate Oliver from Welwyn Garden City
They helped save her life in 2010 after she crashed her car:
"I hit a tree at approximately 23 miles per hour
"The air ambulance were there and had me set up in Addenbrookes Hospital an hour after I had the accident
"I had a severe head injury and my head was filling with blood- without them I wouldn't be here and I could never thank them enough"
Last year Kate held a charity event that raised £8,000 for the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust.
For more information about the charity click here