Life Saving Service Reaches Ten-year Milestone

 Wednesday 3 December 2014

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Shona Robison, met members of the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS) and ambulance paramedics today to mark the 10th anniversary of the life saving service.

Originally set up as a pilot with just eight volunteer consultants from emergency medicine, anaesthetics and intensive care backgrounds, EMRS now operates a 24/7 service across the country from the heliport in Glasgow with 27 consultants, and is an integral part of Scotland’s new national retrieval service, ScotSTAR.

ScotSTAR is the world-class national specialist transport and retrieval service for critically ill NHS patients in Scotland, which was launched in April 2014.  The £9.5 million initiative brings together the three transport and retrieval services; the Scottish Neonatal Service (SNTS), the Transport of Critically Ill and Injured Children Service and the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service with the Scottish Ambulance Service, which co-ordinates the teams using road and air ambulances.

EMRS doctors take the resuscitation room to the patient wherever they may be, working closely with ambulance crews on Service air ambulance aircraft, MOD/Coastguard helicopters and by road. The service has completed more than 3,000 retrievals since it’s launch in 2004. The team also responds alongside ambulance staff to trauma cases, serious accidents and major incidents in the Greater Glasgow area and beyond using their own rapid response cars.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Critical illness or injury can strike anywhere, at any time, and patients can often be some distance from the essential medical treatment they need. Scotland’s Emergency Medical Retrieval Service have, for the last decade, provided these people with a lifeline.

“Over the last ten years, this service has meant the difference between life and death to some people – and it is important the heroic efforts of the team are recognised.

“Since the EMRS was initially established, it has grown and developed in to a national service that now provides care to patients across Scotland. This Government has supported that roll-out, demonstrating our continued commitment to providing a world-class dedicated transport and retrieval service to patients in remote and rural communities.”

David Garbutt, Chairman, Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Since its establishment in 2004, EMRS has proved to be a pioneering life-saving service, internationally recognised and now an integral part of Scotland’s new world class national retrieval service, ScotSTAR.

“ScotSTAR’s co-ordinated approach brings greater efficiencies and ensures there is consistency across Scotland for how our most critically ill adults, babies and children are transported.”


Dr Stephen Hearns, Clinical Lead, Emergency Medical Retrieval Service, said: “The EMRS service, which started as a pilot ten years ago, has proved its value as a specialist life saving service that delivers critical pre-hospital care wherever it is needed across Scotland, whether on a remote island or at the scene of a road accident.

“It is a fantastic example of cross specialty working with consultants in emergency medicine, anaesthesia and intensive care from Edinburgh Glasgow and Dundee. They work closely as a team with ambulance paramedics and Bond’s pilots to provide a first class service that meets the challenges of Scotland’s geography and rurality.”

On primary retrievals the EMRS team can provide advanced interventions at the scene such as intubation and ventilation, surgical airway, surgical chest intervention, joint and fracture reduction, blood transfusion and triage to the most appropriate hospital for definitive care.

ScotSTAR expects to undertake around 2,200 cases every year in Scotland where specialist, highly skilled, clinical teams are required to manage the care of patients during transport by air and road.  These specialised retrievals are clinically complex and take much longer than a normal emergency response.