Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

'Flying doctor' scheme to expand

Royal Navy Sea King helicopter
A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter will be used for emergency calls

A flying doctor service which treats critically ill patients in the west of Scotland is to be rolled out to cover remote areas across the country.

The Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS) will increase to two teams from October, with the number of doctors rising from eight to 15.

The scheme aims to bring the expertise of an urban intensive care unit to patients in remote and rural areas.

The service, based in Glasgow, will cost £2m a year to operate.

Consultants in emergency medicine use the ambulance service's helicopter and mobile lifesaving equipment to fly to patients who are critically ill in the small hospitals of Scotland's islands and remote areas.

A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter is also used to respond to emergencies.

There they can stabilise a patient's condition, and quickly transfer them to a specialist unit in a major hospital if necessary.

Essential treatment

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said critical illness and injury could happen anywhere.

"Patients will often be some distance from the essential medical treatment they need," she said.

"That's where the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service comes in - flying experienced accident and emergency or intensive care consultants to patients in remote and rural communities.

"This early intervention can make the difference between life and death and that's why we have decided to establish Scotland's flying doctors as a national service, covering all parts of rural Scotland."

NHS Orkney chair John Ross Scott welcomed the news and said: "NHS Orkney has looked on enviously at what this excellent clinician-led service has achieved in the west of Scotland over the past year.

"It is estimated that 24 lives can be saved annually by extending the service."



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