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. Recognising the importance and success of the Argyll and Bute voluntary service, in 2008 the Scottish Government funded an 18 month extended pilot of the service covering the West of Scotland which expanded to a national service in 2010. In April 2014, EMRS became part of ScotSTAR, the national specialist transport service, with the Scottish Ambulance Service, Paediatric Retrieval Service and Neonatal Transport Service.
As well as providing retrieval of critically ill and injured patients, the EMRS has worked with local healthcare practitioners to improve educational opportunities along with research in the field of critical care retrieval and the education and training of critical care practitioners.