A new transport service for critically ill children in South Wales and the South West of England will launch today ensuring 24 hour emergency cover.
From September 1, a new combined service called WATCh – Wales and West Acute Transport for Children – will retrieve children who are critically ill or injured and require paediatric intensive care from district general hospitals.
The new service is a collaboration between the paediatric transport teams from Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRCH) and the Children’s Hospital for Wales (CHfW) in Cardiff.
WATCh will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by a specialist paediatric intensive care consultant, registrar, advanced transport nurse practitioners and transport nurses. The team will offer advice, accept referrals and transfer critically ill children back to the appropriate paediatric intensive care unit.
The service will accept referrals from 22 hospitals from Aberystwyth to Swindon, and from Gloucester to Truro. It will see medical clinicians from Cardiff working alongside Bristol colleagues in its new Bristol base, at Bristol Ambulance Emergency Medical Services in St Philips, Bristol.
A key consideration in launching the new service was the achievement of the 3-hour response standard to all areas, as set out in national guidelines. Although the transport service will be operated from Bristol children in Wales will still be taken to the Children’s Hospital for Wales in Cardiff and all Welsh patients, including those furthest west, will comply with the Paediatric Intensive Care Society’s (PICS) Standards response time of three hours (or four hours for remote areas).
Daniel Phillips, Acting Managing Director at the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, which commissions paediatric retrieval services on behalf of all Welsh health boards said: “Over the last 14 years, there has been a move away from individual paediatric intensive care units operating their own transport services, towards the development of centralised regional transport services for critically ill children.
“Bristol Royal Hospital for Children has had its own transport service for some time, as has the Children’s Hospital for Wales in Cardiff. Now, we are coming together as one team to offer an even better and more robust service for children who are in need of intensive care.
“One major benefit of having an independent transport team is that it can be mobilised more quickly, having no clinical commitments on the base paediatric intensive care unit. This is one of the reasons that the professional standards have been altered to require separate on call arrangements.
“All major hospitals in Wales have staff trained to stabilise critically ill children and care for the sick child until the team arrive.”
A spokesperson for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board which runs the Children’s Hospital for Wales,said: “This collaboration will enable the existing service for critically ill children in South and West Wales to continue, with little impact on transport from the patients’ and District General Hospital staff perspective, but with a greater ability to maintain and improve the high standards within the PICU itself.”