The ‘epishuttle’ technology allows patients to be placed in a sealed adult sized incubator for transfer by air ambulance, providing protection for both patients and staff in complex cases.
To date, eight of these shuttles have been purchased, two of which have been received and are being tested for a go-live date on 3 April. A further two will be received on 17 April and another four by Mid-May.
The investment, of more than £500,000, will allow the Service to ensure patients receive the highest possible standards of care whilst increasing capacity for complex transfers involving COVID-19 patients, such as those from remote and Island communities.
The Scottish Ambulance Service is working in partnership with Transport Scotland, Loganair and the RAF to increase the range of transport options available for COVID-19 transfers.
Pauline Howie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said:
“This is an unprecendented situation and our staff across the country are doing a fantastic job in caring for patients across Scotland.
“The fight against COVID-19 has required the NHS to think differently and to move at pace. By adapting our approach and using this latest available technology, we are taking swift action in the best interests of patients and our hardworking staff - whilst increasing our capacity.
“The introduction of epishuttles will increase the range of options available to us as a Service as we deal with COVID-19 cases, particularly for rural and island communities.
“I’d also like to thank our colleagues at Transport Scotland, Loganair and the RAF who have been offered fantastic assistance to us through aircraft and staff. It has been a real team effort and means we have the full range of resources available to us to enable us to react to any situation as we continue to help communities across Scotland in the months ahead.‘
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:
“We’ve been working closely with the Scottish Ambulance Service to significantly increase capacity for airlifting patients off the islands and to ensure that any patients from our island communities with COVID-19 can be transported to receive the appropriate healthcare when they need it.
“The first batch of Epishuttles will be available from this Friday, with plans well underway to increase the number of these single patient isolation pods in the coming weeks. Epishuttles are designed to protect patients and crew from potential infection and safely transport patients on fixed wing aircraft.
“In the meantime, SAS is working with the RAF who are currently providing cover for transfers off the islands, using three puma helicopters based at Kinloss which can transfer some patients without Epishuttles.
“Our NHS is on an emergency footing and all health boards have been undertaking extensive work across Scotland to maximise the capacity available to manage expected rise in demand due to COVID-19. We can all play our part and ease pressure on services by staying at home, except for key workers, essential shopping, reasonable exercise or caring for the vulnerable.”