AAA Conference sees Keith Willett call for more evidence-based research in HEMS

Photo Credit: Association of Air Ambulances

This year’s Association of Air Ambulances (AAA) National Conference took place once again at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington, London. In a departure from last year, the organisers removed one theatre to deliver a more interactive workshop programme. Featuring 23 speakers, the one-day conference looked at the future developments of air ambulance fundraising, operation and clinical activity.

Following a brief welcome from AAA national director, Clive Dickin, Hannah Sebright, AAA vice chair, gave delegates an outline of the AAA’s key issues. These included the AAA supporting the call for the European VAT Directive to be amended so all European charities are able to reclaim VAT charges from carrying out their approved activities, and support for local air ambulances and ambulance services through the provision of both financial and clinical help at a local level.

Prof Keith Willett, director for acute episodes of care, NHS England, then gave an update on the Urgent and Emergency Care Review. Explaining developments, findings and the likely impact on pre-hospital aeromedical care, he commended the collaborative work of AAA and the various air ambulance charities. He concluded by highlighting the need for more evidence-based research in helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS).

Mike Shanahan, head of special operations, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS), then provided a review of the preparation and deployment undertaken by YAS for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

After the first coffee and networking break of the day, Steve Wheaton, assistant chief ambulance officer, West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, gave a report on the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP), outlining progress so far and lessons learned from the Exercise Joint Endeavour held in September.

This was followed by an update on the European Aviation Safety Agency by Brian Baldwin, helicopter flight operations, Civil Aviation Authority.

Nicola Stewart ended the pre-lunch talks with a Care Quality Commission update on changes to regulation of care.

Throughout the day there were a number of breakout sessions and workshops, offering delegates the opportunity to discuss key topics and areas of interest. Some of the highlights of these sessions include Dr Paddy Morgan, anaesthetist/intensivist, Great Western Air Ambulance giving a review of the drowning process, and Alistair Wood, GE Medical systems looking at portable ultrasound in the pre-hospital care environment.

After lunch, communications trainer Mark Hogan, who required air ambulance care following a fall, gave an alternative yet engaging talk on how he took on a bet to put on a comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Lt Col Chris Wright, defence consultant advisor, then spoke on lessons from the theatre of war. A clinician who has spent years treating injured soldiers and civilians, he outlined how lessons learnt in the field can be applied in a civilian setting.

Nigel Hare, operations director, Devon Air Ambulance Trust, gave an overview of European Standards, explaining what they are and issues relevant to them. He explained how he identified a potential problem in EN 13718, the European minimum standard for safety and a specific one for air ambulances, as none of the UK air ambulances services met the standard.

Prof Keith Willett gave an update on the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, explaining developments, findings and the likely impact on pre-hospital aeromedical care

Prof Keith Willett gave an update on the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, explaining developments, findings and the likely impact on pre-hospital aeromedical care. Photo Credit: Association of Air Ambulances

Dr Ben Singer of Royal Brompton Hospital then gave a talk on potential pre-hospital applications of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). He provided an outline of a possible model for pre-hospital ECMO, as well as circumstances where it may be used in the future.

Finally, Dr Gareth Davies, consultant London’s Air Ambulance, spoke on resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) in the pre-hospital environment.

Speaking after the event, Clive Dickin said:

‘Our conference speakers covered not only detailed topics but also higher level strategic subjects from clinical, air operational and fundraising subjects. This is exclusive to our conference, giving a unique perspective and knowledge base for aeromedical teams, charity staff, management, directors’ trustees. The event is designed as one of the key activities that delivers the Association’s strategy of sharing knowledge across the sector, not only looking at lessons learnt but also new innovation, further improving pre-hospital critical care.’

Awards of Excellence

This year saw the Association of Air Ambulances’ second Awards of Excellence. Held in the evening following the conference, the awards were open to all air ambulance operations within the UK and nominations were made from patients, staff, management and the general public.

BBC television presenter Louise Minchin returned to host the awards, with actor and comedian Robert Llewellyn also on hand to provide support and comic relief.

Nigel Hare, operations director, Devon Air Ambulance Trust, picked up two awards for the evening, including Charity Staff Member of the Year and the AAA Chairman’s Award. He was recognised for his input, commitment and passion in his work not only at Devon Air Ambulance Trust but nationally, including as a director of the Association of Air Ambulances.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Gerry Hermer, aviation adviser to the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA). Hermer was recognised for a great number of achievements, including his commitment to continue to develop and improve the aviation capacity of EAAA, despite his supposed retirement.

Air Ambulance Paramedic of the Year went to Mark Fuszard of Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, Air Ambulance Doctor of the Year went to Dr Rik Thomas of Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust, and Air Ambulance Pilot of the Year went to Captain Paul Smith of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance Trust.

Other winners were Jayden ‘JJ’ Butcher for the Outstanding Young Person Award; Janice Flower, who was named Charity Staff Member of the Year; and Gladys Tingle, who was named Charity Volunteer of the Year.

The Air Ambulance Campaign of the Year went to London’s Air Ambulance for their ‘25th Anniversary Campaign’, and the Special Incident Award went to Midland’s Air Ambulance Charity.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 5 December 2014.