Specialised trauma system used to treat multiple casualties in emergency aircraft landing

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) treated casualties with a range of injuries at Gatwick Airport after a plane was forced to make an emergency landing.

Monday, 16th April 2012, 8:17 pm

After passengers disembarked via the aircraft’s escape chutes, SECAmb clinicians, supported by specialist paramedic practitioners and duty officers at the airport’s North Terminal assessed and treated patients who had suffered injuries sustained while evacuating the plane.

Dr Jane Pateman, SECAmb Medical Director, said: “We received a call that a plane had experienced an in-flight emergency at 12:23pm today. We have a pre-planned response to such an incident which swung into action immediately. A number of crews and specialist hazardous area response teams (HART) were deployed to Gatwick airport’s North Terminal. They worked very closely with other 999 services, Gatwick Airport Authority and Virgin Atlantic staff to ensure that all passengers were rapidly assessed and treated.

“A total of 15 patients were transferred to hospital, 14 of which went to two major trauma centres, at St George’s Hospital and Royal Sussex County Hospital suffering from suspected fractures.

“Planned treatment of all patients with major injuries at designated specialist centres is a new system that was implemented across England on April 2 this year. This was the first time that the system had been tested with a significant incident of this nature.

“We are very pleased to say that the system worked extremely well and that we were able to maintain our normal service to members of the public whilst dealing with this incident and ensuring that all patients affected received appropriate treatment.”

In addition to the emergency ambulances sent to the airport the Trust has mobilised patient transport service (PTS) vehicles to transport those patients who were assessed as having minor injuries.

The Trust has maintained operational resilience across its network and is responding to 999 calls as normal. No major incident has been declared by the Trust.