SERV to team up with KSS Air Ambulance

It's the scenario every enthusiastic driver or rider dreads: an accident requiring the attendance of an air ambulance. But being able to fly a specialist medical team directly to the scene of a trauma accident to treat patients prior to transportation has been proven to save lives again and again. And now a ground-breaking step collaboration between the SERV (Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers) blood bikes and the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance aims to further improve this care.

Perhaps contrary to the populist view of air ambulances created by TV documentaries, one of the key activities of the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance in providing a HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) is delivering specialist doctors and critical care paramedics to the scenes of accidents so they can provide immediate intervention. Once stabilised, the patient can then be transferred quickly to a specialist hospital. It’s estimated that some 30 per cent of the 18,000 trauma deaths per year (25 per cent of which are road traffic collisions) are preventable with such early intervention. What isn't widely known is that no county-based air ambulance yet carries blood on board, meaning that the team is unable to support the patient’s circulation in instances of severe blood loss.

This is all set to change early this year when the KSS Air Ambulance becomes the first outside of London to carry blood to allow transfusion at the accident scene. KSS helicopters are not based at hospitals, however, so they need regular replenishment of supplies from local hospital blood banks. Which is where SERV comes in. SERV will take care of the daily transportation of blood from the hospital to the KSS bases, 365 days a year. As we recently reported, SERV provide this service at no cost to the National Health Service through unpaid volunteers on their 'Bloodbikes'. The charity has since become a familiar name to regular PHers thanks in part to the superb work of PHer Of The Year Mel Johnson and the Ali B Memorial Bike.

This significant step up in the volume of runs that SERV Kent carries out means that there is now a need for at least two further bikes on the fleet as well as a couple of Honda CRVs for when conditions make it impossible or dangerous to use the bikes. With this crucial transport link between hospital and air ambulances, it is thought that each aircraft will be able to use blood in up to 50 'Code Red' patient cases each year, ensuring that the patient receives blood significantly earlier than at present.

The equipment necessary to enable the Air Ambulance to take this step forward has been kindly provided by the Henry Surtees Foundation, which was set up by former F1 world champion John Surtees OBE in memory of his son Henry. As you may remember, Henry was tragically killed in a freak accident while driving in the Formula 2 championship at Brands Hatch on 19th July 2009; the KSS Air Ambulance attended the scene.

But the project needs help from PistonHeads, too. As we described in the appeal launch, SERV Kent are raising money to put a 'PH Bloodbike' on the fleet alongside the 'Ali B Memorial Bloodbike'. The additional bike will help ensure that SERV can maintain their existing blood, blood products and emergency medical supplies transport service as well as delivering the vital blood supplies to KSS Air Ambulance. Please donate by visiting the appeal's JustGiving page, or by texting "SERV60 £5" or "SERV60 £10" to 70070.

Nobody wants to have to call on the services of the air ambulance, but enabling them to provide the best possible accident scene care seems to be a no-brainer for any serious petrolhead.

Comments (14) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mel 04 Jan 2013

    Ok, I'll try and answer some of the questions below and hopefully put some misconceptions and misinformation to bed.

    The reason that the concentration is currently on raising funds for bikes and vehicles is to try and drive the charity forward. In an ideal world we would have 2x fully marked & funded vehicles located close to every serviced hospital or medical facility on permanent stand by. Alas as things stand currently that's simply not going to happen. What we are trying to do is to get to a position where this is possible which will hopefully then raise further awareness and obviously with awareness comes funding so that hopefully at some stage in the future this can be a reality. If we went on a fund raising campaign for "petrol money" as we are currently we would be laughed off the street. The important thing is to raise the profile of the charity and get away from the unknown creatures of the night that nobody realises even exist.

    However it must always be remembered that the roots of the charity and the fundamental cornerstone is that the volunteers are about the most direct giving charitable individuals you can imagine. I do not regard myself as a particulary charitable person, if I get chugged on the high street or someone thrusts a direct debit mandate at me on the doorstep then they get a pretty blunt and pointed response. I am however happy to get up in the middle of the night, use my bike, with my fuel and give up a couple of hours of my time to move a box of blood from A-B secure in the knowledge that an individual who I don't and will never know really needs it. Sure at some stage in the future if we can drive the charity in the right direction and generate enough cold hard cash it'll be lovely to see members having their fuel costs at least covered, but until we can raise the awareness and profile and generate that cash it simply isn't there to pay out. Equally so the direct giving and unknown element is what also drives a lot of members on to do it. For me I'd rather than going out for an early sunday morning blast to the coast & breakfast for the love of riding (I've done that for years and got bored of the destination but never the riding), it's much nicer to get a call out the blue and use the same fuel to make a difference to someones life, besides you still get to enjoy the ride.

    Yep 100%, they do look good, but as I said by being seen and climbed on by kids they raise awareness, this raises the profile and by raising the profile more people know and more people give. The same members that have them "sitting in the garage" will normally be the ones giving up their daytimes at the weekend to stand outside Tesco or attend the local fetes in the summer. It should also be noted that these bikes/members tend to do more runs, fund more of their fuel, and give up more time than is expected of regular members using their own bikes, hopefully the use of fleet bikes by these guys helps balance out the fairness a bit more. But yes if the promotion of the charity works and funding increases then by all means free bikes and fuel for all wink On the point of the racks, well between myself and my business partner as well as giving our time to SERV we also own a fabrication company, I can tell you as a fact that every few months we run a batch of mounting plates at our own expense and these are available to be given FOC to all members, members are also given again FOC bespoke waterproof covers for the boxes to protect them from the British weather.

    The Hayabusa is a very special bike, it came about because of a particular chain of tragic events and it serves a particular niche within SERV. Yes it is fast and it is a fantastic tool for responding to the highest levels of emergency, but it is also very eye catching and unique. For this reason it follows a well proven path by the Police and Fire & Rescue Services of using stunning and eye catching machinery to grab attention and raise awareness. It also does this task very well but it is accepted that there will never be a need for a fleet of Hayabusa's. We will always research and purchase the best most suitable tools for the specific job. That can range from the Husqvarna Nuda that was generously sponsored by Freestyle Husqvarna and is used mainly for the daytime urban South London work for which it is ideally suited all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum of a Transit Connect that tends to do bulk inter hospital non emergency transfers again for which it is ideally suited. The Deauvilles and ER5/6's are indeed both well suited bikes for urban use but given the choice I'd rather use a Pan European or FJR1300 for a long motorway run, again it's horses for courses and we actually do have all of the bikes mentioned on fleet and use the most suitable resources for the specific task, which is where good, experienced and clear thinking controllers come into their own.

    All very true, until now it has been the logistics of supply and degree of unused waste that have prohibited the project. Ironically it's technology prooven in Afghanistan that is now filtering over and enabling the safe and timely carriage of blood without unacceptable levels of loss (it goes off like milk if not kept temperature controlled). You must also remember that the Air Ambulances which as HEMS units only respond to high level trauma anyway, will probably "only" respond to 50 instances each per year that will require the use of blood, land ambulances possibly only one or two each. In a war zone virtually every call for a cas' evac' will involve massive and traumatic blood loss.

    Hi and glad you're on the team. The jacket point is a difficult one within SERV and is a fairly recent change, the jackets actually cost the charity over £50 each once fully branded and what tended to frequently happen is members would come along, do the training, get the jacket for free, do a few runs then lose interest, not submit themselves for rota, then fade away. Very often they were chased for the jackets but were just lost, besides no one likes being given a recycled second hand jacket that someone else has worn. It was hoped that the £10 "deposit" would help discourage this type of event but I'm as yet unsure and accept your point, I would hope that trainers would explain the reasoning clearer to new members and help prevent the feelings that you've had.

    As for the fleet bikes, it's actually 6 months active duty with the charity and as this is an insurance inclusion on the fleet policy so is set in stone, the "advanced training" is not an IAM/RoSPA requirement and can be assessed in house as can the training be given, if you're keen to progress, put some time in on rota, get some miles under your belt then ask. It can all be provided.

    The money raised is not huge amounts, the AGM is in March and I would encourage you to attend and be given an audited copy of the accounts, all will then become clearer about how the funding works.

    Publicity is what it is all about, this drives funding, which moves charities forward.

    Hope that all helps.

  • sad61t 04 Jan 2013

    Just read in the local free paper that Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance have also started carrying blood on board. They are, reportedly, only the second in the country to do so. The slow uptake is caused, at a guess, by the lengthy trials for any new medical facility to be certified.

  • TT Tim 04 Jan 2013

    TinbumWeetbrain said:
    He's right, y'know. The Blood Bikes are all very sexy and good for little kids to climb on when fundraising, but practically all runs are done on the volunteers own bikes using their own fuel at all times of the night. The Blood Bikes cna only be used by a few people because they tend to sit in someone's garage and no-one else gets easy access to them. The money would be better used to support the volunteers who have to modify their bikes to carry the blood boxes safely and keep them protected from the British weather. That ususally meean fabricating and fitting platforms on the rear of the bike at some expense.
    This seems to be quite correct.

    I have just joined Kent SERV. I have carried out one run and am 'on call' this Saturday.

    I am happy to be able to help, for as long as I can afford to do so.

    As has been said as a volunteer there is no financial assistance, you know this when you offer your help. And yes, you do have to make provision for carrying the blood boxes or samples. I haven't made a platform as such but have fixed straps and a cargo net to secure the box.

    I was a little surprised that when joining I was asked for £10 for the Hi-Vis jacket. I would have thought that that and the £4.50 worth of good quality straps and cargo net could have been given to the volunteer gratis.

    As for the 'pool' bikes, I'm only going on the first conversation but you have to have advanced training and/or upto two years with SERV before you are allowed anywhere near.

    It's unclear to me where any monies raised are used, as I've said I'm very new to this. Kent do have a van and several bikes so I'm assuming that other than the sponsored bikes these require money to keep on the road.

    I guess it's doubtful that PH would sponsor funding for a 'Starter kit' for volunteers as sadly, there's little PR to be gained from that. having PH emblazoned all over a bike is a Hi-Vis publicity opportunity.

    As for the question of what bike...

    I ride an FJR 1300 every day for my 120 mile commute, this is the same bike I use for SERV, the furthest hospital from me that I will travel to is Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother at Margate, that's only 30 miles but takes just over 50 mins due to the roads.

    So, come on PH, sponsor the 'start-up kits' as well as a bike, or two.


  • rog007 03 Jan 2013

    This is of course welcome news. It is however quite surprising that this has not happened long before now. Blood was carried by medevac helicopters as early as the Vietnam war and as recently as in Afghanistan. Why it's not common practice in the air or ground ambulances of the UK is a mystery to many. Catastrophic blood loss kills; carrying blood (or blood products) saves lives.

  • sad61t 03 Jan 2013

    What kind of bike is needed to volunteer?

    The Huyabusa might be fast but if the majority of runs are less frenetic, a Deauville or ER6 could be more suitable (and more economical). Even a Burgman or similar if the majority of journeys are urban?

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