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New specialist service to benefit critically ill patients

Critically ill patients who need to be cared for at different hospitals across the east of England are to benefit from a new specialist transfer service this winter.

Transfer – the new east of England Adult Critical Care Transfer Service, will be hosted by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH) in support of hospitals across the region.

It is a specialised transport service for adult patients who need critical care, including those with complex time-sensitive conditions, for example those in need of a transplant, emergency neuro or cardiovascular care.

It is being launched on 1 December 2021 and aims to build on the benefits of this type of regional service, highlighted during the Covid pandemic.

Two members of staff are dressed in full PPE looking at a graphics tablet
Staff working on an intensive care ward at CUH

This new service will allow acute hospitals to continue their emergency work while the transfer teams provide consultant-led care for those patients needing transfer

Dr Anne Booth, consultant anaesthetist at CUH

Dr Anne Booth, clinical co-lead for the Adult Critical Care Transfer Service and a consultant anaesthetist at CUH, said:

“Transferring critically ill patients, particularly for those requiring time-sensitive care, is always challenging and patient safety is of paramount importance.

"This new specialist transfer service will allow acute hospitals to continue their emergency work while the Transfer service provides consultant-led care for those patients needing transfer.”

On average 40 patients each week are moved between critical care teams, of which approximately one third are to units outside of the region.

Currently, patients who need to be transferred are typically accompanied by a junior doctor in a front-line 999 emergency ambulance.

This removes the ambulance and ambulance crew from service for approximately 4-6 hours.

It is delivered by consultants and specialist practitioners from around the region, for the region

Dr Alistair Steel, consultant anaesthetist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn

Dr Alistair Steel, consultant anaesthetist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, and co-lead for the Transfer service, said:

“A key feature of the new service is that it is delivered by consultants and specialist practitioners from around the region, for the region. We are really pleased to have the support of Cambridge University Hospitals as a host for the service, and we are working closely with services around the country to ensure that patients have equitable access to specialist services regardless of the location or time of day.”

PaNDR
Paediatric and neonatal (PaNDR) service ambulance

The new Transfer service will work alongside existing specialist transfer services, including the paediatric and neonatal (PaNDR) service and the Royal Papworth’s Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) service.

Dr Booth added:

“The need for this service has long been recognised and this project is a superb example of how, through working in collaboration with partners we can truly improve the care we deliver to patients.

"Being able to implement it on 1 December is a huge testament to the hard work critical care teams have put in place throughout the Covid pandemic to help ensure patients are getting the right care in the right place at the right time, and will mean we are in a good position to meet winter demands."

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for a dedicated critical care patient transfer service

Dr Ellen Makings, clinical lead East of England Critical Care Cell

Dr Ellen Makings, medical director for System Improvement at NHS England and Improvement in the east of England, added:

"The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for a dedicated critical care patient transfer service. I am delighted this will support what is going to be a difficult winter for the NHS and will keep our emergency ambulances available for frontline emergency work as well as providing senior clinicians to transfer our sickest patients around the region.”