Children’s Air Ambulance Introduces England’s First Helicopter Incubator

The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) has announced the launch of England’s first incubator on a rotary-wing aircraft to assist specialist NHS transport teams during lifesaving flights.

The national transfer service provides the only intensive care aircraft in the country dedicated to transferring critically ill babies and children, at a high and safe speed, from local hospitals to specialist paediatric and neonatal treatment centres.

With support from public donations, the charity has designed and developed three bespoke Neonatal Transport Systems which have been provided to specialist NHS transport teams free of charge across England to enhance patient care.

An incubator is an apparatus used to maintain environmental conditions suitable for a newborn baby and is used in preterm birth or for some ill full-term babies. The ability to maintain the temperature, humidity and oxygen levels provides a safe environment for the young patient.

The new and bespoke TCAA Neonatal Transport Systems have been designed with input from leading neonatal transfer clinicians to ensure they are able to provide outstanding care in the air.

In addition to the incubator, the system includes a Patient Monitor, Ventilator, Suction Unit, four Infusion Devices, Oxygen, and specialist Nitric Oxide Therapy.

The helicopter also holds medical air and oxygen supplies, and easily controllable heat and light levels, and with the onboard power, it reduces the reliance on batteries – making it a very efficient enhancement the national service provides.

Speaking on behalf of SONeT, the first team to use the incubators, Dr Sarah Davidson, neonatal consultant at University Hospital Southampton and SONeT Wessex lead said: “The incubator system will allow SONeT to move patients who were previously too small or needed additional support and we are very pleased to say we have already been able to fly using the new incubator and this was a patient who previously would not have been able to be flown to us for specialist care.”

Alfie Daly, Head of Operations for the Children’s Air Ambulance added: “I am delighted that we have now introduced our bespoke Neonatal Transport Systems so we can transfer neonatal patients and support our NHS teams to provide the best possible care.

“A tremendous amount of work has gone into this project which is fundamentally based on NHS clinicians’ requirements to ensure they have everything they need to provide the best possible patient care. It’s a huge achievement for the Children’s Air Ambulance and a lifesaving piece of equipment.”