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13 June 2023

What is an International Air Ambulance and what does it do?

An international air ambulance is a specially adapted aircraft, used to transport sick and injured patients from one country to another for urgent medical treatment.

International air ambulances have to be in the air for many hours at a time, flying often critically ill patients from the Middle East, USA, South America, Africa, Asia and other international destinations. At IAS Medical, our fleet of air ambulances includes Chieftain, Cheyenne, King Air 200 and Lear Jet 35 and 55 aircraft – the latter being intensive-care vessels used for worldwide flights. From the outside they resemble executive jets, but inside they become flying hospital units, fitted with the latest state-of-the-art monitoring and intensive care equipment. With a crew of two pilots, plus qualified, aero-medically trained doctors and nurses or paramedics, our jets are configured to address all patient needs, including high dependency, paediatric and neonatal patients. All ambulances in the fleet comply with the guidelines for the transfer of critically ill patients, as set by the ICS (Intensive Care Society.)

An international air ambulance can carry a lot of supplies, which must be replenished immediately after every intensive care flight. As with rapid response vehicles on the ground, the crew must always be ready for the next emergency. Equally important is the transfer between hospital and aircraft, and between the aircraft and the admission hospital. We at IAS Medical offer a full bed-to-bed service, inclusive of pre-flight clearance, ground ambulance transfers and hospital admission – all of which is arranged by a medical co-ordinator before departure.

Another important element is the retrieval of patient medical documents. An international air ambulance can often have to transfer patients from non-English speaking areas such as the UAE, where medical notes may be written in Arabic. Here at IAS Medical we have a duty of care to our patients which extends to translation of medical notes. This is one of the most challenging aspects of medical repatriation – but one of the most essential.