Teamwork ensures a safe transfer for Guernsey critical care patient

One of the things that sets Capital Air Ambulance apart from other air ambulance operators is the calibre of our team and the high-quality care they provide. Capital aims to offer the most comprehensive and high-quality service in the sector, with medical teams accompanying patients throughout their journey and transferring them seamlessly to a UK hospital - providing an unparalleled quality and continuity of care, from start to finish.

This superlative approach to patient care is perhaps no better illustrated than by a recent overnight medevac mission from Guernsey, to the mainland, for specialist trauma care.

Patient A needed to be transferred from Guernsey to Southampton and the initial planning for the mission was for it to happen during the day. However, a succession of delays, due to the seriousness of the patient’s condition, saw the whole Capital Air Ambulance team pulling together to ensure Capital could continue to provide a seamless bed-to-bed service, despite challenging circumstances.

The patient was being cared for at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in St Andrews, Guernsey. From early in the day, with support from Capital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Simon Forrington - who was in Manchester - Chief Flight Nurse Dominic Rose liaised with the hospital to enable the Capital ops team in Exeter to start planning the medevac mission.

However, due to the changing nature of the patient’s condition, there were a number of delays and changes to the plans across the day – which, eventually, led to the team having to craft a contingency plan, including bringing in a new team of medics late at night, to staff the mission.

Throughout the day, the Capital ops team, Lisa, Dave and Heather, had stayed in close contact with not only Dr Forrington and PEH, but all three airports involved - Exeter, Guernsey and the destination airport, Luton – as well as the receiving hospital in Southampton too. The team also regularly briefed the rostered flight medics, but the delayed departure eventually meant the Capital team needed to change not only the aircraft’s flight timings, but also the on-board medical team too. One of the ops team members, Dave, ended up remaining constantly on the phone, making the logistics work.

Clinical Coordinator and Senior Paramedic Tom Sheen picks up the story. “After around 50 phone calls, we managed to identify appropriate hospital diversions and get a team together for an overnight mission, which included a paramedic on his first flight with Capital, together with experienced flight medic Dr Miles Gandolfi – who happened to be on his way to our base in Exeter, by train, as he was on shift as our retained doctor the following day,” said Tom.

“I focused on preparing critical care paramedic Ollie Zorab, who had only been inducted the previous week, while the delays continued in Guernsey - before picking Dr Gandolfi up from the train station at 22:35.

“However, because we had ensured that pilots Catherine and Jake were in the aircraft, ready for take-off, within 45 minutes of collecting Miles, he and Ollie had joined them on board and Dominic and I were waving them off.”

While the air ambulance was being prepared at Exeter, Capital ambulance driver Mark Finch responded to a call from Dave and, soon after, left his home to head to Luton, from Southampton. At Luton, he met the air ambulance before driving through the night to transfer the patient, together with flight medics Miles and Ollie, to Southampton University Hospital.

After settling the patient into hospital and briefing the medical team, Miles and Ollie made it to a hotel in Southampton at around 06:00. After a good sleep they were transferred back to Exeter the following day, ready to start all over again on the next mission.

“We promise that we will always have pilots, medics and operations staff available, to bring someone home and this this case study goes to show how hard the team work to ensure we can deliver on that promise,” said Simon Forrington. “Throughout the day and night, the sole focus of the team was how we could adapt the plans to ensure the well-being of the patient. I am very proud of the team for working so hard to maintain the levels of service, despite the delays and changing circumstances.”