A Priceless Gift

Posted by Website Admin on June 29, 2017


Blood. It’s a priceless gift, a much-needed lifeline.

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) prides itself on being an innovative, patient focused rescue service, so when our Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) Doctors and the New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) began discussing the possibility of working together, the critical difference blood can make for patients was top of mind.

Pre-hospital transfusions have been standard practice in a number of countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Learnings from these nations were considered as ARHT and NZBS began discussing how this would work in an Auckland setting.

Key benefits were noted, particularly strengthening the ‘chain of survival’ for critically injured patients. In addition, carrying O-Negative whole blood was identified as advantageous as it can be given to anyone.

Discussions also addressed challenges, for example blood must stay at a constant temperature of four degrees for greater than 72 hours. Furthermore, O-Negative whole blood must be available to be exchanged every two to three days if the current unit is not used, and waste of this blood type must be minimal as only nine percent of the population is O-Negative.

Working through those benefits and challenges, a unique strategic partnership with NZBS and ARHT has developed. Today ARHT carries two units of whole blood – this means life-saving blood transfusions can be carried out at the scene of an accident or in the air en-route to hospital. 

As the ‘chain of survival’ extends into the hospital ARHT clinical teams worked with the Auckland District Health Board to develop what is known as ‘Trauma Code Crimson’.  This means that with a critically ill patient on board our crew can call ahead to the hospital a “Code Crimson” which prompts the hospital staff to immediately mobilise a team of trauma specialists to receive the patient, including operating theatre, anaesthetists etc.

Last year five blood transfusions were performed under this programme, making a real difference for those critically injured patients.

This unique relationship between ARHT, ADHB and NZBS is critical to New Zealand communities – working together, it enables more lives to be saved.


Being a Blood Donor

Blood donors must meet the eligibility criteria (see and can book an appointment online or by calling 0800 GIVE BLOOD (0800 448 325).

The need for donors is constant – NZBS must collect around 3,000 donations every week nationally and are always working to maintain and grow the register of donors to make this possible.


The Benefits and Challenges of the Airdesk

Posted by on June 12, 2017

 - Greg Barrow, CEO 
A two-year long trial to centralise the co-ordination and dispatch of national air ambulance helicopter services recently got underway.  

Funded by the Ministry of Health and ACC, the Air Desk trial is supported by a collaboration between St John Ambulance, Wellington Free Ambulance and the Air Rescue Group. 

The Air Desk is used successfully in Australia and the United Kingdom, meaning there are plenty of learnings to tap into. So, what is the Air Desk? How does it work? And what are the benefits and challenges of such an approach on our shores? 
The Air Desk service centralises the handling of the country’s emergency air ambulance callouts, aiming to reduce the time from a medical event to when the patient receives care. Despatchers assess calls to help ensure the right types of emergency services are dispatched to the right situations and carrying the right medical crew. This is based on the location and terrain, weather conditions and patient requirements. 
A critical factor is to ensure the Air Desk team member receives sufficient information regarding the accident or medical emergency to make an informed dispatch decision. A key measurement of the trial’s success will be if the service reduces the time from a medical event or accident until the helicopter is at the patient’s side – not if it simply sets out to reduce the number of helicopter missions in any given time to cut cost.   
In Scotland, the Air Desk is seen to have failed if a decision to dispatch a helicopter is not made until a road ambulance crew on scene requests the helicopter. This is also a factor in New Zealand, and crucial minutes can be lost because a helicopter is not dispatched until a road ambulance is on the scene. In time, it is hoped the Air Desk despatchers will gain sufficient information and confidence to, where appropriate, dispatch the helicopter as a first responder. 
If successful, this service will provide important benefits to New Zealand communities, particularly those in our country’s many remote areas. It will reduce the time it takes to get medical care at the scene of an accident or medical emergency, ultimately assisting people in need more readily.