Consultants to join Welshpool and Swansea air ambulance
Specialist doctors will join Wales Air Ambulance crews for the first time as part of a new service aimed at treating seriously injured patients faster.
From April 2015 crews will be joined by consultant doctors who will be able to provide immediate treatment for trauma injuries, strokes and heart attacks.
The £3m-a-year service will allow doctors to reach about 95% of the welsh population within 30 minutes.
It will also mean the helicopters can carry blood for the first time.
The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service Cymru (EMRTS Cymru) will operate 12 hours a day from bases in Swansea and Welshpool.
Alongside existing helicopters, it will also make use of a new fleet of 4x4 vehicles to transfer patients by road.
Its doctors will be available to respond to serious emergencies such as road traffic accidents, but will also be used when patients who need more specialist care are transferred between hospitals.
On-board medical equipment will also be upgraded, allowing consultants to administer specialist treatment and medication.
Welsh Air Ambulance facts
- The service has carried out over 18,000 missions since 2001 and is now one of the busiest in the UK
- It is currently staffed by paramedics
- A helicopter can be airborne within three minutes of an emergency call
- They can travel 150mph - over two miles (3.2km) a minute - and can reach anywhere in Wales within 20 minutes
- The service responds to 2,000 missions a year - around 400 of which involve children
- 30% of launches are to road traffic collisions
- A helicopter can carry one pilot, two paramedics, one patient and one extra person
- Each response costs £1,500 and the service costs £6m a year to run
- It is wholly dependent on public donations and receives no government support
BBC Wales understands no extra doctors will be employed to staff the service but health boards have agreed to release doctors for set periods of time.
The Welsh government has earmarked £1.89m to set it up and a further £2.86m to run it.
Staff will be paid for by the NHS and the Wales Air Ambulance charity will continue to fund the helicopters and pilots.
Deputy Minister for Health Vaughan Gething said the new service would "transform our ability to provide the very best care to the most critically-ill patients in Wales" and provide patients in rural areas with rapid access to life-saving, specialist critical care.
The Welsh government says the new service is the first of it's kind in the UK to cover an entire country and is another part of the jigsaw of NHS reorganisation in Wales.
It is also hoped the service could ease pressure on the Welsh Ambulance Service - which has failed for much of the past two years to meet its response time targets for the most urgent and life-threatening calls.