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.