Belmont, Perth,

WA flight paramedics add blood to repertoire

In a first for WA paramedics, St John Ambulance WA Critical Care Paramedics working on board the two RAC Rescue Helicopters will be able to give life-saving blood transfusions to their sickest patients.

Critical Care Paramedic Allan Newbold said people who suffer serious external or internal bleeding as a result of car and other accidents can deteriorate quickly.

“Seriously injured patients will now have the benefit of receiving blood at scene or en-route to hospital, greatly increasing their chances of survival,” he said.

“The patients receiving this product will be those suffering from severe haemorrhagic shock, where up to 40 per cent of their blood has been lost.

“These patients present with very low blood pressure, rapid heart rate and an altered mental state – in some cases the blood loss can bring about cardiac arrest,” he said.

Paramedics routinely provide fluid through a drip to help stabilise injured patients, but the most effective way of treating significant blood loss is with a blood transfusion.

Allan said unlike other fluids, packed red blood cells replace the blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, which is extremely vital for major organs to function.

The helicopters will stock O negative blood, which can be given to all patients.

As well as doing intensive training for the blood transfusion with trauma physicians, the paramedics have done clinical hospital placements to get more exposure to the practice.

With this new clinical procedure, St John has joined the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to call for more blood donations.

“We need blood and blood products to assist with these traumatic injuries so I would actively encourage those who have ever thought about giving blood to do it,” Allan, who donated blood this week, said.

Blood Service spokesperson Jessica Willet said there was no substitute for donated blood.

“In 2016 we need 115,000 people to donate blood for the first time and help the one in three Australians who will need blood or blood products in their lifetime,” she said.

To donate blood, please contact the Blood Service on 13 14 95 or visit


Fact file:

  • The rescue helicopter performed 484 missions in 2014/15.
  • St John has 15 critical care paramedics working on board the Perth and Bunbury based helicopters.
  • The Australian Red Cross Blood Service collects around 1.3 million blood donations every year.
  • One in three Australians will need blood or blood products in their lifetime. Currently only one in 30 donate.