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Aeroplane transfer

Embrace ambulance logoWelcome to Embrace, the Yorkshire and Humber Infant and Children’s Transport Service. We are a team of specialists in moving babies by air ambulance, and have been asked by the team looking after your baby to help move them to another hospital. This resource will tell you more about why we are doing this and what will happen.

The transport of your child can be an extremely anxious and stressful time. You may feel scared and think that you do not have control of what is happening. These feelings are normal. We aim to provide care and support for you and your child and we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Embrace transfers the majority of children referred to us using specialist road ambulances. However in some cases, due to speed or distance, or if the patient is abroad or on an island, a specialist aeroplane may be needed.

Who are we?

Embrace is a service hosted by Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. We are a team of highly skilled intensive care staff trained to safely care for your child during their transfer.

Embrace employs a combination of medical staff, nurse practitioners, transport nurses and other allied health professionals. Each patient is assessed by a transport consultant and the most appropriate team is dispatched based on the needs of your child.

What aircraft will my child be flying in?

Embrace work with a reputable air provider called IAS Medical. We have worked with IAS Medical for over ten years and they are registered and assessed by the CQC (Care Quality Commission). The aircraft used is called a ‘Beechcraft King Air’. These are reliable twin-engined turboprop aircraft which are well suited to medium distance patient transfer. The availability of a dedicated air ambulance with specialised equipment appropriate to the needs of your child enables Embrace to provide a safe flight transfer service for children in the UK. If another air provider or aircraft is used, we will inform you.

Photograph of staff wearing blue jumpers, stood in front of a small aeroplane, smiling

Can I travel with my child?

There is usually space in the aircraft for one parent to travel, although occasionally this is not possible. If you wish to accompany your child, the transport team will make contact in advance and ask you some questions about your current health and experience of flying prior to you meeting them (these are called ‘Fit to Fly’ questions). This is also the time to raise any other questions about the transfer you may have. If your child is old enough we are also happy to discuss the transfer directly with them.

You may not be permitted to travel with your child if you are pregnant, unwell or have just had a baby (less than 24 hours after a normal delivery, or 72 hours after a caesarean section). Not all parents wish to travel and that is okay too. This may be a good chance to make arrangements for your other children, or to pick up any belongings you may need from home. If you do not have access to private transport, your current hospital can help you make arrangements.

Handover

The team currently caring for your child will update us on your child’s condition and any treatment they have already had. We will then assess your child and perform any further treatment or procedures needed so your child can be transferred.

Getting ready for transfer

Once the transport team arrives, the process of preparing your child for transfer usually takes between 1 and 2 hours, depending on how sick they are. Do not be alarmed if the process is longer or shorter than this. We will update you on your child’s treatment and progress. It is important that you do not leave the hospital until your child is ready to be transferred. The team will complete this process in time to meet the aeroplane.

At the airport

A road ambulance will be required at either end of the journey for transfer to and from the airport. At the airport, the ambulance will use a special entrance and will drive right up to the waiting aircraft.

What happens at the new hospital?

When we get to the hospital, we will handover to the local team your child’s medical history, treatment and their current condition and then they will be transferred to their bed or incubator to continue their treatment.

Each hospital ward has slightly different facilities and policies such as visiting, parking and accommodation. The local staff will be happy to discuss these with you when you arrive, or we can get answers in advance to any questions you may have.

Your comfort and safety

  • If it is possible for you to travel in the aeroplane, it is important that you bring only minimal luggage as space is limited. The transport team will discuss this with you in advance.
  • It is very important you follow all safety instructions given to you by the transport team and the pilots.
  • Remain seated at all times in the aircraft and keep your seatbelt fastened when required to.
  • There is no toilet on the aeroplane. The transport team will remind you to go before leaving the hospital.
  • Any batteries (such as mobile phone power banks) or e-cigarettes should be packed in an accessible location for safety reasons.
  • There is enough room for the team to care for your child in the aircraft, but to those who are not used to it, the inside of the aeroplane can feel cramped.
  • Please bring a coat, even in the summer as airports can be windy places.
  • Please wear closed-toe footwear if possible.
  • You will ideally have photo ID for airport security checks, usually either a passport or driving licence (essential if travelling outside the UK). Please make the transport team aware in advance if you do not have these documents available.

Risks

Transferring your child is not without risk, but the transport will only go ahead if the balance of risks and benefits is in favour of moving, and with your consent. The risks, and how we manage these, will be explained to you in advance, and again on the journey. Risks include how altitude and oxygen changes might affect your child’s breathing, and how the noise and vibration of the journey might impact their comfort. We do everything we can to reduce risk, which might include giving extra oxygen, or increasing the amount of breathing support that is offered. Sicker patients might have their medication adjusted to help them tolerate the journey.

The team has your child’s safety and comfort in mind as they evaluate the medical information in order to decide on the timing of the transport, and the most appropriate team and equipment to send. No matter what level of medical support your child is receiving, the team is equipped and prepared for emergency situations, including a worsening of their clinical condition. The care that will be given during the journey, and any preparations that need to be made for unexpected situations, will be explained to you. We encourage you to ask all the questions you need to in order to feel reassured.

Timings

If your child’s transfer is not an emergency, there may be a few days wait before the transfer. This may be because we are waiting for a bed to be available at the new hospital, we may be waiting for medical staff to be available to undertake the transport, and finally the aircraft needs to be available. It may also be the case that your child is not quite ready to be transferred from a medical perspective. We are aware that this waiting can be frustrating and we will try and help you understand the reason for them.

These transfers are very carefully planned, and we aim to stick to a time schedule which is agreed in advance. There can however be delays on the day, which may be due to airport opening hours, road conditions, weather conditions, and other factors. Sometimes a journey is planned for an aeroplane, but we end up going by road or helicopter due to factors which arise on the day. In all cases, we will keep you informed about any changes to the plan.

If you are abroad with your child awaiting transfer, Embrace can link you to help and information sources regarding care in the UK. For newborn babies, Bliss (www.bliss.org.uk) is an excellent source of advice and support for families.

Feedback

Your comments about any aspect of the Embrace service are important to us. Please use the parent and carer feedback form to send us your thoughts.

Complaints and advice are dealt with by the patient advice and liaison service (PALS) available in all hospital trusts. Please contact the Sheffield Children’s PALS service on 0114 271 7594 if it concerns the service provided by Embrace.

Accreditation

Every year Embrace undertakes multiple helicopter and aeroplane transfers of patients within the UK and abroad. This is in partnership with our aeromedical partners. Our years of experience have resulted in full accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems – Global which is a European based organisation dedicated to improving the quality of patient care and safety of the transport environment. More information can be found on our CAMTS accreditation page.

Lucy Air Ambulance for Children

Some of Embrace’s aeroplane flights are funded either in whole or in part by a charity called Lucy Air Ambulance for Children. If this is the case, we will let you know and give you the opportunity to find out more about the work they do.

Lucy have created a family hub online which contains lots of resources to help you prepare for your child’s transfer. As part of this they offer to put you in touch with another family who have been on a Lucy or Embrace flight.


The Embrace Team is here to offer you help, support, advice and information. Please do not hesitate to speak to us about any aspect of your child’s care and transfer.

You can find out more information about Embrace on our website.

Quotes from flying families

“I was feeling a whole mixture of emotions on the day of the transfer – there was relief to be going home but also sadness to be leaving the Plymouth NICU team, but at no point did I feel concerned for Charlie as both the NICU and Embrace transfer team were highly professional and caring. No words can describe what comfort that gave to me.”
-Amy, Charlie’s Mum

“Everything about the transfer was fantastic! Everyone involved in the transfer was professional but friendly and made me feel completely at ease. It all ran smoothly and although I was worried about my little boy, I knew he was in good hands. I am so glad you made it all possible!”
– Katie, Alfie’s Mum

“As nerve-racking as it was flying such tiny babies, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The transport nurses who came with us were incredible. While being friendly, professional and very diligent with all their checks, explaining everything along the way, there was an injection of humour (including critiquing our in-flight picnic – not enough sweet stuff!) which made the whole experience positive and relaxed and making me feel safe and secure in the knowledge that the twins were in good hands.”
– Sam, Max and Olli’s Mum

“I just wanted to say a huge, huge thank you for bringing me and my little boy closer to home. He is now settled and doing well in our local hospital where both me and Dad can see him daily. It was such a relief to be back home! We could not have done it without you and the work you put in. Ian and Justine from Embrace were amazing from start to finish, explaining everything which made the trip from hospital to hospital as smooth as possible. Theo of course slept through the majority of the whole thing, but he looked nice and comfy in his little pod. Again, we are so grateful!”
– Jodie, Theo’s Mum

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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: EMB3

Resource Type: Article

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