NHS to recruit consultant doctors for air ambulance

Pilots look out at setting sun while in flight Image copyright Wales Air Ambulance
Image caption The air ambulance trialled night flights last year

Up to eight consultant doctors are to be recruited under plans to boost the emergency treatment provided by Wales' air ambulance service.

They will be hired for new or unfilled accident and emergency department posts at Wales' seven health boards.

A mix of the new recruits and existing staff will make up the emergency medicine teams based at the charity's bases in Swansea and Welshpool.

The doctors are to be part of crews from April 2015.

The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service Cymru (EMRTS Cymru) will allow the doctors to provide immediate treatment for trauma injuries, strokes and heart attacks.

Operating 12-hours a day, the service will be able to reach about 95% of the Welsh population within 30 minutes.

Welsh Air Ambulance facts

  • The service has carried out more than 18,000 missions since 2001 and is now one of the busiest in the UK
  • It is currently staffed by paramedics
  • A helicopter can be airborne within three minutes of an emergency call and can travel at 150mph - more than two miles (3.2km) a minute
  • The service responds to 2,000 missions a year - around 400 of which involve children
  • 30% of launches are to road traffic collisions
  • A helicopter can carry one pilot, two paramedics, one patient and one extra person
  • Each response costs £1,500 and the service costs £6m a year to run
  • It is wholly dependent on public donations and receives no government support

The Welsh government has earmarked £1.89m to set it up and a further £2.86m to run it.

Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: "It is envisaged seven or eight emergency department consultants will be recruited for NHS Wales to support the initial 12-hour service, as well as complementing the number of emergency department consultants based at A&E departments around Wales.

"The service will, therefore, also act as a mechanism for attracting new consultants to Wales."

Mr Gething was responding to questions by Montgomeryshire AM Russell George.

Mr George said: "The deputy minister's confirmation that these dedicated emergency department consultants will work over and above their existing rostered hours is also welcome news to ensure that there is no shortage of senior staff in hospitals around Wales."

The Wales Air Ambulance charity will continue to fund the helicopters and pilots.

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