Significantly quicker transfers of neonatal babies are to be introduced with the launch of Wales’ first flight incubator.

 

The NHS Wales-funded £70,000 bespoke incubator has been developed by a company in Switzerland. It was designed with input from expert Welsh nursing staff, including Claire Richards from the Cymru-Inter-Hospital Acute Neonatal Transport Service (CHANTS) and medics from the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru). It is the most advanced flight incubator in the UK and its introduction to the Wales Air Ambulance will replace long road journeys for vulnerable babies.

 

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity operates the official National Children’s Air Ambulance in Wales, airlifting 250 children a year from life-threatening emergencies or to children’s hospital’s across the UK.

 

At 100kg, the incubator is fitted to a sled and requires four people to lift into the Charity’s helicopter. Within the incubator the baby is safely secured in an infant harness tested to aviation emergency landing conditions.

 

The new incubator system uses the latest cutting-edge technology which controls the temperature, and the flow of oxygen and air. It can also inflate the internal mattress for the comfort and security of the baby. In addition, medical equipment can be attached to the unit making efficient use of the space on the aircraft.

 

Crew training is currently taking place and the incubator service will begin in September.

 

It will go into service on the Charity’s newly introduced fourth aircraft – an EC135 T2e – which will operate across Wales.

 

Claire Richards, a Senior Sister and Service Manager for CHANTS, said: “Sick and premature babies are very susceptible to heat loss. It is essential that they are nursed within their thermal neutral environment to prevent harmful side effects such as respiratory distress, low blood sugars and weight loss. A heated incubator, along with the surrounding medical equipment suitable for flight, ensures that babies can be transported safely and is the gold standard of neonatal care.

 

Dr Dindi Gill, EMRTS Cymru Interim National Director, said: “Having the incubator system will further enhance the ability of the EMRTS teams to manage neonates born at home or in hospital. This advancement will be particularly important for premature neonates. It is recognised that temperature control is extremely important to the group of patients and therefore we welcome the ability to carry the incubator on the Wales Air Ambulance. Furthermore, the incubator system will enhance the ability of neonatal retrieval teams in Wales and beyond.”

 

Wales Air Ambulance Chief Executive Angela Hughes said the incubator was the latest advancement in the air ambulance’s constantly evolving service:“Crucially, the incubator is heated, and has a Perspex chamber, meaning that medics can see clearly in order to monitor the baby during the course of the flight.

 

“While we will continue to carry Babypods – which are chambers without an electrical heat source and with a smaller window – for emergency missions, the flight incubator means we can now transfer very poorly neonatal patients between hospitals.

 

“We’re always seeking to improve our range of equipment and our service offering. It will enable us to accept more missions to help save lives across Wales.”

 

Launched in April 2015, EMRTS Cymru provides pioneering emergency medical care across Wales. The Service is made up of consultants and CCPs (paramedics and nurses) who are able to deliver innovative emergency treatments previously not available outside of a hospital environment.

 

The EMRTS medics travel on board the Wales Air Ambulance Charity helicopters and in a fleet of Rapid Response Vehicles which enable them to reach the scene of a medical emergency as fast as possible.

 

 

Additional Information

 

EMRTS Cymru is a partnership between the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, NHS Wales and the Welsh Government. The consultants and critical care practitioners (paramedics and nurses) fly on board the Wales Air Ambulance Charity helicopters which are based in Swansea and Welshpool. The team are able to reach 90% of the Welsh population within twenty minutes. It is the generosity of the Welsh public, through donations to the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, which keeps the helicopters flying.

 

For information about EMRTS Cymru visit www.emrts.wales.nhs.uk. To find out more about the Wales Air Ambulance Charity visit www.walesairambulance.com.

 

For further details please contact Steven Stokes, EMRTS Cymru Communications Manager, on 07866 796985 or via steven.stokes@wales.nhs.uk.

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