A Puma helicopter has been supporting medical evacuation training with the NHS in the Western Isles in Scotland.
The Puma helicopter, which is part of the Aviation Task Force detachment at Kinloss Barracks, travelled to Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra on the Western Isles to work with personnel from NHS Scotland and HM Coast Guard in the fight against coronavirus.
“Operating as part of the tri-Service Joint Helicopter Command, the experienced RAF crews were able to ensure that the emergency care teams are familiar with the aircraft ahead of any potential medical evacuations from the remote islands. They were also able to provide the front-line staff with vital information on the capabilities that they can offer to ensure that patients can be transported to critical care facilities on the mainland as quickly and safely as possible.
As well as basic familiarisation with the aircraft such as how to approach a Puma helicopter safely, specific training was undertaken for potential medical evacuations. This included how to board the aircraft safely, how to load a stretcher onto the aircraft, how stretchers are secured by the crews and where medical staff can be positioned to safely continue to treat the patient during transit. The RAF crews were also able to familiarise themselves with the landing sites that they may be required to use, which can save vital minutes during a medical evacuation.”
Squadron Leader Johnny Longland, the Puma Detachment Commander explained:
“We have paramedics from the islands working with our crewmen to look at how they can integrate their equipment with the Puma. The NHS Scotland and HM Coast Guard teams of paramedics, clinicians and planners were primarily looking at how they can put stretchers in the back of the aircraft and continue to perform their essential care for the patient.”
What is an Aviation Task Force?
As part of the military’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, forces from Joint Helicopter Command are on standby to provide aviation capability in support to civil authorities.
The new COVID Aviation Task Force has helicopters on standby across the UK to support the government’s response to coronavirus. The RAF Puma, Army Air Corps Wildcat, RAF Chinook and Royal Navy Merlin provide essential medical evacuation capabilities as well as the ability to swiftly deliver essential equipment and personnel to where they are needed across the nation, say the RAF.
The following Aviation Task Forces have been established:
- 3 RAF Puma helicopters have been detached to Kinloss Barracks in Moray, Scotland to support requests for assistance from the NHS in Scotland and Northern England
- 2 British Army Air Corps Wildcat helicopters have been detached to RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, to support requests in Scotland and Northern England
- 3 RAF Chinook helicopters are on standby at RAF Odiham in Hampshire and a further 2 British Army Air Corps Wildcat are on standby at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset to support Southern England
- 3 Royal Navy Merlin helicopters are also on standby at RNAS Culdrose to support Southern England, the Channel Islands and Isles of Scilly.