International Audience Hears How Data Saves Lives

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Dr David Rawlinson-IPDLN Conference
Dr David Rawlinson-IPDLN Conference

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Dr David Rawlinson-IPDLN Conference
Dr David Rawlinson-IPDLN Conference

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An international audience visiting a Swansea conference has heard how data analysis is playing a vital role in helping a Welsh medical service save lives.

Dr David Rawlinson, Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru) Clinical Informatics Manager, spoke at the recent International Population Data Linkage Conference, held at Swansea University’s Bay campus. Data linkage is a process which brings together sets of data from different organisations to produce a wealth of information for research and evaluation.

Launched in April 2015, EMRTS Cymru, also known as the Welsh Flying Medics, joined the Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) Charity helicopters to provide pioneering emergency medical care across Wales. The Service, which effectively takes the emergency room to the patient, is made up of Welsh Government-funded NHS Wales consultants and critical care practitioners who are able to deliver innovative emergency treatments previously not available outside of a hospital environment. It works from the WAA Charity’s bases in Dafen, near Llanelli, and Welshpool.

A vital part of the development and growth of EMRTS Cymru is the data analysis that it undertakes in partnership with The Farr Institute at Swansea University.

During the conference, Dr Rawlinson revealed how EMRTS Cymru is using the University’s Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank, a world-class, privacy-protecting data linkage system that securely brings together the widest possible array of routinely-collected data. It holds approximately 9 billion records from patients worldwide.

The University’s collaboration with EMRTS Cymru sees pre-hospital care records linked in SAIL with a variety of national data-sets including Emergency Department, Ambulance, Primary Care, Intensive Care and National Trauma Audits. Through this, a patient’s journey can be followed anonymously from injury to rehabilitation. This allows the Service to measure the impact of its treatments on patient outcomes and the wider NHS, and continue to enhance the services it provides.

Dr Rawlinson said: “The world-class linkage allows us to follow the journey of our patients and measure their outcomes. We are especially grateful for the new links formed with the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN) and Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC), which will be vital in understanding more about our patients. With the information, we are able to evaluate the effectiveness of the Service and help develop, and support, future developments with the ultimate aim of improving the survival and recovery of Welsh patients.” 

Professor Ronan Lyons, Director of the Farr CIPHER at Swansea University, said: “I am delighted to support the intelligent use of data to inform the development of NHS services to help improve patient outcomes across Wales.” 


Additional Information


1. EMRTS Cymru is a partnership between the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, NHS Wales and the Welsh Government. The consultants and critical care practitioners fly on board the Wales Air Ambulance Charity helicopters which are based in Dafen and Welshpool. It is the generosity of the Welsh public, through donations to the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, which keeps the helicopters flying.

When the helicopters are unable to fly due to poor weather conditions, the service has access to a fleet of Rapid Response Vehicles.

To find out more about the Wales Air Ambulance Charity visit

2. SAIL stands for Secure Anonymised Information Linkage. SAIL is a Wales-wide research resource focused on improving health, well-being and services. Its databank of anonymised data about the population is world recognised. SAIL receives core funding from the Welsh Government’s Health and Care Research Wales. A range of anonymised, person-based datasets are held in SAIL and, subject to safeguards and approvals, these can be anonymously linked together to address important research questions.

3. The Farr Institute is a UK-wide research collaboration involving 21 academic institutions and health partners in England, Scotland and Wales. Publically funded by a consortium of ten organisations led by the Medical Research Council, the Institute is committed to delivering high-quality, cutting-edge research using ‘big data’ to advance the health and care of patients and the public. Farr CIPHER (The Centre for Improvement in Population Health through E-records Research) at Swansea University is one of the four co-ordinating centres of the Farr Institute.  It is a multinational research partnership between academia, the NHS and industry, focussed on improving the lives of patients and the population through informatics. To find out more about The Farr Institute and Farr CIPHER visit


4. For further details please contact Steven Stokes, EMRTS Cymru Communications Manager, on 07866 796985 or via