Puma Crew and Scottish NHS Trial The Use Of Epishuttles

RAF Helicopters Support Medical Equipment Trial In Scotland

The EpiShuttle, which is designed to transport patients to emergency care facilities, is currently being trialled using Puma helicopters.

Puma Crew and Scottish NHS Trial The Use Of Epishuttles

Royal Air Force Puma helicopters from Kinloss Barracks have been supporting the Scottish Ambulance Service with the trials of a medical isolation and transportation system.

Known as an 'EpiShuttle', it is a transportation unit designed for the safe movement of patients.

The RAF are supporting the Scottish Ambulance Service in trialling the equipment, as part of the response to coronavirus.

RAF Pumas are on standby to assist with air transportation if needed, having previously been used for medical evacuations in operational theatres.

Their crews have been undertaking the trials alongside critical care team bases in Glasgow and Aberdeen, plus dozens of staff from the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service and NHS Scotland.

Puma Crew and Scottish NHS Trial The Use Of Epishuttles
Crew members with medical staff from the Scottish Ambulance Service demonstrate how the EpiShuttle works with the Puma (Picture: MOD).

Flight Sergeant Stephen Cassidy, the senior crewman of the Puma detachment in Kinloss, explained that the helicopter has been adapted to fit the EpiShuttle.

"Ahead of the training, our engineers changed the aircraft to a six-seat fit from the traditional 12-seat fit; a configuration we haven’t used before," he said.

"Removing the additional seats allows us to transport the required medical staff to treat the patient and safely accommodate the EpiShuttle and associated medical equipment.  

"It’s similar in size to the NATO stretcher that we’ve transported on numerous operations but it’s much easier to load and secure because of the fixed wheels when taken off the gurney."

Squadron Leader Johnny Longland, the Puma Detachment Commander, said that the helicopter crew and NHS can "work together seamlessly to provide a life-saving service".

Puma Crew and NHS Trial EpiShuttles
(Picture: MOD).

The Puma aircraft working alongside the Scottish Ambulance Service will particularly benefit those in rural and island communities during the pandemic.

Pauline Howie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said the new way of working will "enable us to react to any situation as we continue to help communities across Scotland in the months ahead".

Puma helicopters are part of the Aviation Task Force Covid Support Force which has helicopters on standby across the UK.

Along with the Army Air Corps Wildcat, RAF Chinook and Royal Navy Merlin, the RAF Puma provides medical evacuation capabilities, as well as the ability to swiftly deliver essential equipment and personnel to where they are needed across the country.