Choosing the right medical interior for our new aircraft was a huge responsibility; one that we knew would directly affect our patients, our crews and our operational effectiveness both now and in the future. We also knew that the design process would benefit hugely from the many years of experience held by our teams within Devon Air Ambulance (DAA). Our pilots and clinicians were the perfect people to help develop the new aircraft interior and in turn improve our HEMS operations. 

In the second of our blogs on the new Airbus H145 helicopter we spoke to Darren Goodwin (DAA Operations Manager) to find out more about the process our teams went through in order to decide which interior layout would best suit their needs and ultimately the needs of our patients.

From concept to design

Before we could agree on the design detail, we needed our Patient Services and Helicopter Services teams to use their previous experience of operating the EC135s, in order to identify a clear set of requirements that would guide our decision-making process: 

A medical interior designed around our patients

After applying the above criteria against several interior design options, it was clear that the Swiss design company Bucher would give us the best solution for the medical interior of our H145 helicopter. In particular, Bucher could give us the flexibility and adaptability to design our own bespoke interior layout. Here are some images showing the layout of the medical compartment of the new H145:

The layout we designed with Bucher and the manufacturer Airbus includes a unique seating configuration that enables our clinicians to face the patient both on the ground and in flight. This in turn means that the medical team can always provide clinical interventions to the patient, a simple but important requirement. As you can see from the images above, all three clinicians can now access the patient with their equipment laid out in a systematic way and their monitors and defibrillators all within easy reach. The new way in which the stretcher has been positioned is critical and means that the team of clinicians can gain greater access to the patient’s body, another of our crew’s main requirements for the new aircraft.

The type and position of the new stretcher has also been carefully thought-out and reflects our desire to see a single stretcher system which would be easy to load and unload. The positioning of the stretcher on the right-hand side of the aircraft, mirrors the position of the patient in a land ambulance. Why is this important? If a patient has had an intravenous line inserted in a land ambulance, and is then transferred to the helicopter, it provides a consistent approach to delivering medical treatment. This is clearly advantageous for both the patient and the clinicians delivering the treatment.

The aircraft stretcher on the H145 is a wheeled version. This new addition means, once a patient has been lifted onto the aircraft stretcher at the scene, they will remain on that same stretcher all the way into the hospital. This removes the need for lifting and moving a patient between different stretchers which can be time consuming for medical teams and uncomfortable for the patient. To make the loading and unloading of a patient from the H145 as simple and streamlined as possible, the rear doors of the aircraft open outwards and the wheeled stretcher simply slides onto runners set in the aircraft’s floor. Here is a photo of the new stretcher system being used in a training exercise:

Getting to grips with the new medical compartment

Whilst our pilots and medical teams have continued to put the H145 through its paces above the skies of Devon, a large piece of work has been underway to train all our Patient Services team in the layout, operation and management of the medical compartment.
The Patient Services training programme was kick-started by an intensive week-long course provided by the medical team at Bucher.

Given the number of DAA clinicians who would need to be trained, and the requirement to maintain our HEMS operations, it was decided that a cohort of 6 clinicians would join Bucher at the Exeter airbase on a ‘train the trainer’ course. That course covered all aspects of where and how the medical equipment is stored and accessed, how the stretcher is operated and how the equipment is removed and deep cleaned. Once this training course was completed these 6 clinicians have been involved in training their colleagues across the Patient Services team.

As they approach the end of their first full month of training, our clinicians are taking the H145 into a range of training environments to simulate their full spectrum of pre-hospital emergency treatments. Not only are the team developing the skills to operate the medical side of the aircraft, but they are also spending many hours flying over Devon as they build their experience in operating the H145.
We’d like to recognise the hard work and commitment of our paramedics, doctors and pilots as they carry out many hours of training as well as remaining operational 19 hours a day, 7 days a week in what continues to be very challenging conditions due to Coronavirus.

It is thanks to our incredible supporters that we are can continue to evolve our service to bring the best possible critical care to the patients we serve. We welcome your continued support