The next generation of Scotland’s air ambulance service will operate larger helicopters with more room and equipment for enhanced clinical care, as a new contract is due to be awarded to the incumbent air operator, Gama Aviation. The contract will commence in April 2013 and run for seven years with a lifetime cost of £120 million.
The new service will comprise the two existing King Air 200c fixed wing aircraft based in Aberdeen and Glasgow. Two new EC 145T2 helicopters, purpose built to Scottish Ambulance Service specifications, will replace the current EC 135 helicopters in Inverness and Glasgow. They will continue to be supported in Shetland by the medically equipped Super Puma search and rescue helicopter. The current contingency support arrangement with Military and Coastguard aircraft will continue.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:
“The Scottish Ambulance Service Air Ambulance is the only publicly funded air ambulance service in the UK and this £120 million contract will deliver a world class, future proof service that has been specifically designed to benefit patients throughout Scotland.
“It is important that patients can rely on the provision of a safe, responsive and high quality Air Ambulance Service and these new larger and faster helicopters can do just that.
“We all recognise the remote and rural nature of Scotland, and the importance of providing communities with a resilient healthcare system. The air ambulance service is critical to how we do that.”
The new helicopters are being built to order and will come into service in 2014, delivering improved range to reach all of mainland Scotland, The Western Isles and Orkney Isles within 60 minutes flying time for life threatening emergencies. They are larger and faster than the current helicopters, with more space for clinicians to treat the patient and ensure relatives and carers can also travel in the aircraft, when appropriate. The EC145T2’s longer range reduces the need to stop en route for refuelling.
The Service consulted widely with users, carers, GPs and clinicians from specialist neonatal, paediatric and high dependency emergency retrieval services and the new helicopters will be better equipped to meet their specific needs.
As part of a unique programme of clinical skills development, air ambulance paramedics will undertake specialist critical care training. These Critical Care Paramedics will be able to work with high dependency teams and may reduce the need for specialist nurses to travel from the hospital with the team.
Gama Aviation will deploy their own personnel to work alongside air ambulance staff in the Service's Ambulance Control Centre in Cardonald. This will enhance communications, speed up the decision making process and improve the management and tasking of aircraft. New tracking equipment on all aircraft will result in better tasking and management.
Pauline Howie, Chief Executive, Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Our air ambulance service is absolutely vital to the people of Scotland and the new contract will ensure that we continue to maintain the highest quality and service standards for our patients, with significant enhancements to patient care.
“The contract is being awarded to Gama Aviation after a rigorous consultation and procurement process that started in 2009. Our team worked closely with key stakeholders, NHS clinicians, patients, carers and community groups to develop the contract specification and key performance indicators. It will deliver a world class air ambulance service that is future proofed and designed to specifically meet the needs of the people of Scotland.”
Companies were asked to tender their proposals to deliver an affordable solution that would meet the specification. There were originally twelve responses to the Pre Qualification Questionnaire and after detailed evaluation of each, a final shortlist of three companies entered into a Competitive Dialogue process. Two final bids were received after one of the shortlisted companies withdrew. Gama was chosen as the most economically advantageous bid that would achieve the required performance standards.
The new contract will start on 1 April 2013, with immediate implementation of new resource management and tasking arrangements in the Ambulance Control Centre. The EC 145 helicopters come into operation in 2014.
The Scottish Ambulance Service provides the only publicly funded air ambulance service in the UK. It flies around 4,000 missions every year, the majority of which are planned inter hospital transfers.