7 July 2021

Specialist ambulances revving to go

New and modernised ambulances will help deliver enhanced care for babies and children needing emergency treatment at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) and University Hospital Southampton (UHS).

Seven new vehicles have recently (Thursday 1 July) come into service to support young patients needing specialist treatment at the Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) and Paediatric Intensive Care (PICU) units at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton.

The ambulances, which will now be provided and run by the British Emergency Ambulance Response Service (BEARS), will support two separate teams that care for the two patient groups at OUH and UHS.

This includes the Southampton Oxford Neonatal Transport (SONeT) service for babies and the Southampton Oxford Retrieval Team (SORT) for all infants and children (up to the age of 16).

Thanks to the partnership with BEARS, there are seven identical vehicles that can be used interchangeably between SONeT and SORT and act as mobile intensive care units for babies and children of all ages.

The new ambulances are more spacious and include room for additional equipment such as a drugs refrigerator, patient cooling equipment, and a phototherapy unit.

There is also more room to accommodate parents and an additional clinical team member during travel, and the fleet offers a safe and comfortable working space for those on board.

In addition, new WiFi access means doctors and nurses have access to electronic patient records and medical information while en route.

Neonates and children have very specific needs – one size does not fit all – so the cabin has been streamlined to provide space for specialised lifesaving equipment to be carried that covers all ages.

Eleri Adams, Consultant Neonatologist and Clinical Lead for SONeT at OUH, said:

We are delighted to have these new ambulances to help provide emergency care and transport for babies requiring care in all the neonatal units across Thames Valley and Wessex.

A transport service like this needs bespoke ambulances available for immediate dispatch which are capable of carrying all the equipment needed during transfer. This includes specialised transport incubators carrying all the intensive care equipment needed to support babies which must be securely locked into the ambulances.

We provide specialist medical and surgical care for babies across the Thames Valley Neonatal Network, and we look forward to working with the highly trained and experienced crews at BEARS to deliver this vital service.

I would also like to give a heartfelt thank you to the charities that have contributed so generously, such as Southampton Hospitals Charity, Oxford Hospitals Charity and SSNAP (Supporting the Sick Newborn and their Parents), in providing specialist equipment, such as incubators and ventilators, needed to safely transfer patients.”

Deirdre O’Shea, Consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care and SORT Lead at OUH, said:

Having more vehicles with modern equipment will improve the quality, flexibility, and reliability of patient care.

We provide specialised critical care for children with complex needs ranging from early infancy to adolescence across the Thames Valley Paediatric Critical Care Network, and collaborating with BEARS will allow for best practise in every case.

The vehicle is effectively a moving Paediatric Intensive Care Unit environment that ensures access to adequate space and state of the art equipment for the highly skilled multidisciplinary team to provide the care that these youngsters need.

The combined services – SONeT & SORT – move more than 1,000 patients a year from local hospitals to our specialised centres, with activity shared between Oxford and Southampton partners.

This is always a most distressing time for parents and by working in partnership with families from the outset, at the time of transport to our tertiary critical care unit in a fully functional mobile ICU environment, we can ease their journey and encourage trust and confidence.”

Dr Sarah Davidson, Consultant Neonatologist and SONeT Wessex Lead, said:

Southampton SONeT is very excited at the new partnership with BEARS. We feel this will allow us to enhance the level of care we can deliver and provide a more comprehensive service to the babies and their families in Wessex.

The SONeT team moves a range of patients including those requiring intensive care and the improvements in our vehicles and equipment is crucial in helping us to save lives.”

Ali Hashim, BEARS Owner and Managing Director, said:

We are excited and privileged to be able to support the excellent work done by the SONeT and SORT teams at Oxford and Southampton.

We are passionate about the service and look forward to delivering a state-of-the-art ambulance service in partnership with the Trust.

We are truly honoured and humbled to be part of such a great team of individuals providing an essential lifesaving service.”

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