Seriously ill and injured patients require early critical care interventions and rapid, safe transfer to a centre capable of providing definitive surgical and intensive care. The survival and functional outcome of these patients is dependant on the timeliness of these interventions to stabilise airway, respiratory and circulatory compromise.
The provision of emergency care and safe transfer of these patients, difficult in large urban hospitals, is extremely challenging in remote and rural environments. Similar problems are experienced in rural health care systems in many parts of the World. Many countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada have developed patient retrieval services to support their rural health care practitioners.
In 2004 a group of clinicians, together with Argyll & Clyde Health Board and the Scottish Ambulance Service came together to try and address some of the issues around providing emergency care for critically ill and injured patients in the remote and rural areas of Argyll & Bute. As well as providing retrieval of critically ill and injured patients, the Argyll & Bute EMRS has worked with local healthcare practitioners to improve educational opportunities. This has been a two-way process with rural healthcare providers actively involved in our governance systems and shaping the service for the future.
The pilot EMRS in Argyll and Bute provided a well trained, governed and equipped voluntary team of retrieval consultants.
Recognising the importance and success of the Argyll and Bute voluntary service, the Scottish Government have funded an 18 month extended pilot of the service which commenced operation in June 2008.