Wales Air Ambulance introduces first night flight

Wales Air Ambulance has made its first night flight, saving a 59-year-old man from Welshpool who was suffering from a heart attack.

The charity made its maiden night flight during the early hours of 25 March. After receiving an emergency 999 call, the air ambulance was able to transport the man to the nearest cardiac centre at North Staffordshire University Hospital in just 45 minutes.

By using the Air Ambulance service, transport time for the patient was reduced by at least an hour, and meant that a life-saving procedure could be delivered where a cardiac stent was inserted into the coronary arteries to improve blood flow to the heart.

The flight comes following weeks of training, where pilots and paramedics at Welshpool have been learning how to extend their work into the hours of darkness.

National clinical and operations manager for Wales Ambulance Service, Jason Williams, said:

‘We can now fly in the hours of darkness, and this means that we can now provide more of a service and are working towards a 24-hour service.’

When questioned on the night flight, Williams said: ‘In this example, “time is muscle”, and every minute that the heart muscle is deprived of blood the chances of survival are greatly reduced as the heart muscle dies.’

Throughout the trial of the night service, paramedics have been getting used to using night vision goggles, allowing them to pick out places and people that wouldn’t be possible without their aid.

Currently, only three hospitals in Wales can allow night time arrivals from the air ambulance: Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, and Morriston in Swansea.

During the trial, the Welshpool Air Ambulance service is working from 09:00 to 21:00 BST.

The Air Ambulance, which costs £6 million a year to run, has carried out more than 17,600 missions since its launch in 2001, and carries out approximately 2,000 missions a year.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 25 April 2013.

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