Life-saving missions soar for air ambulance crews

Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) has recorded its busiest ever year as the country emerged from lockdown with an increased demand for the life-saving service.

By Kevin McRoberts
Friday, 21st January 2022, 6:05 am
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance crews responded to a record number of emergency calls in 2021. (Picture by Graeme Hart)
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance crews responded to a record number of emergency calls in 2021. (Picture by Graeme Hart)

Emergency call outs soared well beyond pre-pandemic levels with crews at the charity's Aberdeen and Perth airbases deployed 810 times during 2021 – a 76 per cent increase on the previous year's workload.

These deployments saw a record number of seriously ill or injured patients flown rapidly to advanced hospital care from every part of the Scottish mainland and many of its islands.

A total of 333 people were airlifted by SCAA, with nearly three quarters being flown to the country's four Major Trauma Centres at Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh.

Air ambulances were deployed 810 times in 2021, with the majority of casualties flown to major trauma centres.

Traumatic injury cases continued to dominate SCAA's mission log in 2021, accounting for around 323 of the year's call outs. Of these, the greatest number were to road traffic collisions (135) which accounted for nearly 42 per cent of all trauma emergencies and 17 per cent of the year's total deployments.

Other trauma emergencies attended by SCAA included falls (97), industrial accidents (23) and equestrian-related injuries (24).

Throughout the year, SCAA's helicopters airlifted advanced medical teams directly to the scene of 111 emergencies, delivering critical care as quickly as possible to those most in need.

Crews were also quickly on scene for those taking seriously ill including cardiac related emergencies (136) and strokes (22).

SCAA Paramedics Wendy Jubb (left) and Julia Barnes pictured at work on Helimed 76. (Picture by Graeme Hart)

In addition to airlifting patients to hospital, SCAA's paramedics were at hand to treat and assist in cases ranging from major multi-casualty trauma incidents to single patient illnesses.

Around one in four emergencies attended by the charity's distinctive air ambulance helicopters were in the Grampian area.

SCAA chief executive David Craig said the demand for pre-hospital emergency care had never been greater and the helicopter air ambulances and dedicated crews fulfilled a vital role in meeting that need.

He said: "The fact that three quarters of our airlifted patients were flown to one of the country's four Major Trauma Centres shows the high-acuity trauma our crews are dealing with.

Life-saving air ambulance crews operate every day of the year.

"Deploying with a specialist doctor-led team on 111 occasions has allowed us to deliver advanced critical care straight to the accident or emergency scene.

"SCAA's speed and level of care have proven to be life-saving and our crews' impressive work has seen us delivering more emergency care than ever before."

The charity, funded entirely by public donations, is now in its ninth year of operation, and David thanked the fundraising public who ensured SCAA was online 12 hours a day, 365 days of the year, at both Aberdeen and Perth bases throughout 2021.

He said: "It's been a trying year for everyone, but our amazing supporters kept the charity in their hearts throughout, with their ongoing generosity enabling SCAA to take more care, more quickly to more people throughout the whole of Scotland than ever before."

The helicopter air ambulances and the work of the dedicated crews is funded entirely by public donations.