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Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services

First published:
11 April 2022
Last updated:

I am pleased to update Members on the positive findings from the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) Evaluation, which was published on 1 March 2022.

The evaluation, covering a five-year period between 2015 and 2020, represents one of the most extensive evaluations by any air ambulance operation anywhere in the world.  It offers significant evidence that EMRTS Cymru is achieving the aims set out in its Business Justification Case. 

The evaluation sets out the findings from the second phase of the service evaluation of EMRTS, following on from the first report which provided an early overview of year one activity.  It clearly demonstrates the increasingly important role of the service in providing an emergency response for those who need immediate treatment.  It also shows the positive impacts it has had on the development and delivery of specialist emergency care practice in Wales.  

The recommendations of the initial report have been realised, including expansion to North West Wales, and further evaluation of the unmet need outside of initial daytime operating hours which culminated in the expansion of the service to a 24/7 airborne operation from December 2020.

Key findings from the evaluation include:

  • The introduction of EMRTS was associated with a significant reduction (37%) in 30-day mortality for patients with blunt traumatic injury.
  • Emergency inter-hospital transfers were reduced by 41%.
  • Increased number of patients were delivered to the right hospital first time: 42% of patients bypassed local hospitals to be taken directly to more specialist care.
  • Critical interventions were available outside hospital where necessary:
  • 63% (6,018) of patients attended received interventions that are outside standard ambulance service practice.
  • 313 patients received blood product transfusions.
  • 790 patients received pre-hospital anaesthesia.
  • Significantly, twelve new consultants have been recruited into Wales due to the attraction of posts that include formal pre-hospital care sessions with EMRTS. Thirty-two part-time consultants who also work in key specialities in NHS hospitals are employed to deliver the clinical service. There are also well-established programmes developing the future medical workforce including Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM) subspecialty training, clinical fellow schemes and the clinical attendant scheme.

I welcome the findings of the evaluation, which show the service is enabling more patients to be taken to the right place for their needs, first time, and ensuring more patients receive critical treatment at the earliest possible stage to improve their chance of survival.

I am delighted to see how far the EMRTS Service has come since its launch in April 2015 and achieving its ambition to become a 24/7 service, in partnership with the Wales Air Ambulance Service.

Since the EMRTS service launch, there have been a number of key clinical service developments in NHS Wales. This includes the launch of the South Wales Trauma network (SWTN) in September 2020.  The SWTN was launched to care for adults and children across South and West Wales and South Powys who had suffered a major trauma. The launch of the SWTN was a significant moment for the NHS in South and West Wales. Until last year, it did not have its own major trauma arrangements. I made a statement on 6 January about the early benefits that are being realised through the SWTN:

Written Statement: South Wales Trauma Network – a year on (6 January 2022) | GOV.WALES

The development of the EMRTS Service over the last seven years has supported rapid change within critical care to ensure we have the right services in the right place for people who are critically ill. The new dedicated Adult Critical Care Transfer Service Cymru (ACCTS) which commenced in South Wales in August 2021 and in North Wales in October 2021, is another important part of plans for improving adult critical care services.

The Welsh Government provides funding of around £3m each year to Local Health Boards to help support the cost of consultants and paramedics who work on air ambulances, as part of this valuable EMRTS service.

The work of the EMRTS service in partnership with the Wales Air Ambulance Service and its’ hardworking staff has helped Wales to lead the way in best practice, clinical excellence and innovation.

The publication of these positive findings on 1 March coincided with the 21st birthday of the Wales Air Ambulance Charity. It has been a pleasure to see the Charity go from strength to strength since its launch on St David’s Day in 2001.  The work of the charity and its’ hardworking staff and volunteers has contributed to the Charity becoming the largest air ambulance operation in the UK.

The evaluation will support ongoing service improvement and expansion activities and I look forward to seeing the service continue to develop and improve patient outcomes and experience.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.