A CRACK team of emergency doctors hope to save scores of lives by delivering blood transfusions to casualties at the roadside for the first time in Lothian.
Using a pioneering technique honed by army doctors in Afghanistan, the charity Medic One will be able to give emergency O-negative blood to critically ill patients at the scene, instead of waiting until they get to hospital.
The new move has been heralded as “a Christmas present for Lothian” as the emergency services prepare for a challenging winter on the roads.
Dr Richard Lyon, a consultant in pre-hospital and emergency medicine at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said the team were extremely excited to roll out the life-saving treatment this week.
He said: “We treat around 80 patients a year who have suffered major illness or injury.
“Around one in ten of these have severe injuries and require blood transfusion on arrival in the emergency department. Being able to treat patients so soon after their injury undoubtedly will save lives.”
He added: “It is amazing for donors that they can be giving blood in Edinburgh today and tomorrow it could be saving someone’s life after a car crash.
“We are seeing it as a Christmas present to Lothian.”
The charity has been working with emergency medicine and blood transfusion departments of NHS Lothian for months to find a way to keep blood supplies cool out in the field.
The team also needed to make sure the blood could be brought back to hospital if not used, so supplies are not wasted.
“Staff at the ERI blood transfusion department have installed a blood transport box in a dedicated refrigerator in the emergency department capable of meeting the strict criteria required for storing blood,” said Dr Matthew Reed, chair of the Transfusion Group at the ERI.
He added: “When activated, the Medic One team take the blood transport box, which keeps units of O-negative blood, which can be transfused into any patient, at a steady temperature, with them to the roadside.
“The blood is then administered using a blood-warming device.”
This is the first time in south east Scotland that transfusions will be available outside of hospital, and forms part of pioneering work taking place in Lothian to improve emergency care.
Dr Lynn Manson, lead consultant haematologist in transfusion medicine at the ERI, said: “This exciting step is one of several improvements that have come about through our close working with the emergency department and which aim to provide clinicians with the best possible transfusion service for these seriously injured patients.
“Emergency department clinicians can now activate the blood transfusion department to prepare vital blood products before a patient even arrives in the emergency department through a process called ‘Code Red’, allowing the best possible resuscitation on their arrival and improved survival.”
To make a donation to the Medic One Trust, visit www.edinburghemergencymedicine.com.