New air ambulance kit brings “major enhancement” in patient care

  • Watch: Kit Bradshaw reports on the new equipment helping critically-ill patients

The rollout of advanced blood-pressure monitoring equipment by the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance (KSS) has been hailed as a “major enhancement” in patient care.

The new equipment – which is normally only available in hospitals – will be carried by all the charity’s helicopters and rapid response cars from today. 

It allows medics to obtain a patient’s blood pressure reading every heartbeat, rather than every two minutes, significantly speeding up how quickly they can respond to changes in their condition. 

Dr Matthew Vale, one of KSS’s emergency HEMS doctors, says the innovation is all about giving patients a “fighting chance of the best recovery”.

The arterial line blood pressure monitoring equipment is said to be particularly important for patients with head injuries.

It comes after the air ambulance charity revealed last year had been the busiest in its 32-year history. Its crews responded to 3,051 incidents, with more than a third attended by road rather than by air. 

The charity has a fleet of four high-performance Volvo rapid response vehicles, with a fundraising campaign last December helping buy a new car.

  • Watch: Dr Matthew Vale explains how the new blood-pressure kit works

The new arterial line blood pressure monitors are particularly critical for patients with head injuries, according to KSS. In those cases accurate management of blood pressure is said to help reduce the chances of secondary brain injury.

It involves using a line into the artery rather than a traditional cuff on the arm and is monitored using a device not available in standard land ambulances.

Dr Duncan Bootland, medical director at KSS, said: “This is a major enhancement in monitoring blood pressure more accurately. In patients with head injuries who need a general anaesthetic, controlling blood pressure is known to be important, and we also know that monitoring blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff is not perfectly accurate and is more difficult in the pre-hospital environment due to movement of the patient.”

  • Watch: Former patient Saroj Khadka and his wife Sarah Khadka-Lowe

Saroj Khadka, from Cobham in Surrey, knows first-hand what a difference the charity’s service can make. “If they weren’t there that day, I wouldn’t be here today,” he explains.

His wife, Sarah Khadka-Lowe, had to call 999 after he collapsed in their bathroom in 2018, after complaining of indigestion.

“They took me through some simple tests: shake the shoulders, is he breathing?” she recalls. “His eyes were rolled back in the sockets. And they took me straight into doing CPR. The land ambulance arrived first of all – several vehicles. Then I learnt that some time after they arrived the air ambulance arrived and brought the most amazing machine which helped save his life.”

That was a LUCAS chest compressor, but the couple are now ambassadors for the air ambulance charity and supporting the launch of the new blood pressure monitors.

Last year, KSS air ambulance dispatched a car to 38% of the 3051 incidents it responded to.

Each year, the KSS charity has to raise £15.2M to operate its life-saving service. 86% of its total income is through public donations.