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New specialist incubator for ill babies needing to get to hospital via aircraft

Group of people standing in front of a helicopter with an incubator at the front
26 May 2023

We’re excited to have been a part of designing England’s first rotary-wing aircraft incubator for critically ill children with the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA)! 

At Sheffield Children’s we’re lucky to have Embrace! They’re Yorkshire’s own specialist round the clock transport service who help children and young people who require care in another hospital locally, nationally, and sometimes internationally! They’ve been working with TCAA and other clinicians to design a bespoke incubator. 

Following this work with the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) and thanks to donations supporting the charity, the Embrace service will now have access to one of three bespoke incubators to assist in providing lifesaving flights for critically ill babies in need of specialist care. 
The Embrace team is made up of specialist doctors and nurses and provide crucial care to over 2000 patients a year via road ambulances, helicopters and planes. The team use incubators – a pod used to maintain environmental conditions suitable for a new-born baby and is used in preterm birth or for some ill full-term babies. It provides a safe environment for the baby as it can maintain the temperature, humidity and oxygen levels.
Ian Braithwaite, Transport Nurse Educator at Embrace, said: “The design and development of these incubators has been a long and complex project; the result of close collaboration between TCAA, the clinical partner teams and the aviation and engineering specialists. As a nurse with twenty years of flight transport experience, I am excited to be using the best flight incubator I have ever seen. Embrace are thrilled to have access to a truly state-of-the-art asset, built to the highest quality and whose function exceeds our original brief.”
The new and bespoke TCAA Neonatal Transport Systems has been designed to ensure that outstanding care in the air can be provided to patients. In addition to the incubator, the system includes a Patient Monitor, Ventilator, Suction Unit, four Infusion Devices, Oxygen, and specialist Nitric Oxide Therapy.
Alfie Daly, Head of Operations for the Children’s Air Ambulance said; “I am delighted to have handed over our bespoke Neonatal Transport System to the team at Embrace, so we can transfer neonatal patients and support Embrace and other NHS teams to provide the best possible care. A tremendous amount of work has gone into this project which is fundamentally based on NHS clinicians’ requirements to ensure they have everything they need to provide the best possible patient care. It’s a huge achievement for our charity and a lifesaving piece of equipment which the team at Embrace have already used.”
Ian added: “We have always had babies who are too small or cold for the flight stretcher, and until now we have not been able to offer them the transport advantages that the helicopter provides. The new flight incubator allows us to provide the same level of advanced medical support using the same equipment as on the stretcher, but also providing a secure and warm environment.”
Ruth Brown, Chief Executive added: “We’re delighted to have collaborated on and received a state-of-the-art incubator which is going to help us to transport critically ill babies safely and quickly as well as help more babies than we are currently able to. A huge thank you to the Children’s Air Ambulance charity for the incubator, it will really make a difference to the care we can provide for our patients.” 

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