Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Elderly patient dies after man blocked air ambulance landing space for half an hour

Some nut blocked a helicopter from landing for an emergency transport of a patient from one hospital to another. The patient died. this raises some questions.

First, was the flight necessary?

Maybe there are not any ground critical care transport ambulances available, but the drive is only 44 – 45 minutes according to Google maps.

How much time would be saved by flying vs. driving?

Would there be any reason to expect this amount of time to make any difference in the outcome for the patient?

If not much time is saved and there is no expected benefit to the patient, why fly the patient?

The air ambulance is called when speed is of the essence. It offers no greater care for patients, but gives them time – an essential factor in emergency cases.[1]

Mr Taylor added: ‘What we give people is time. And that’s something that was taken from this patient.[1]

Second, what is wrong with some people that they will not take a little time out of their lives for someone else?

‘He just shook his head at us. We couldn’t land because we weren’t sure what he’d do – if he had thrown a shoe at the rotors, the ambulance would have become a £5m death trap.

Perhaps more than a little bit of an exaggeration.

If a helicopter will crash due to a shoe hitting a rotor, what would happen if a bird flew into a rotor?

Does anyone other than a bean counter really care about the difference between a £3m death trap, or a £4m death trap, and a £5m death trap?

‘We know the delay wasn’t the cause of his death, but it is so important that we can get through when we need to.[1]

It would be interesting if someone had claimed that the delay was the cause of death. We could expect some lawyers to salivate over a case like this.

Suppose the helicopter cannot land and the patient ends up being transported by ground ambulance. I don’t know what the cost of a flight is in the UK, but in the US $10,000 to $15,000 seems common. Would the guy who prevented the flight be liable for the cost of the cancelled flight?

A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police confirmed officers were contacted by the ambulance service in order to move the man on.

He was issued with a fixed penalty notice for disorder and it is understood his car was impounded.[1]

This is going far too easy on this guy for creating a hazardous situation.

The main reason for limiting inappropriate flights is to make helicopter EMS as safe as practical without endangering patients.

Unfortunately, criticism of inappropriate flights is often portrayed as being about something else.


[1] Elderly patient dies after man blocked air ambulance landing space for half an hour
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:51 PM on 25th June 2011



  1. The UK are fairly good at limiting inappropriate flights, because all the air ambulances (except Scottish Air Amb) receive no state funding. They’re all entirely funded by donations. This means they’re dispatched almost entirely down to clinical need, as doing so will always incur a huge loss of money. The hospitals don’t pay anything, the patients don’t pay anything, just the public.

    In the case above, Google Maps is notoriously bad for planning timings in that area of the country, especially during rush hours. Look at the roads they’re on: Even a tiny bit of traffic would snarl up the roads, and getting a big van through would be a mission. There’s also the advantage of higher skill level on the helicopter, especially if the patient was at an outlying DGH without good critical care support. Most of the helicopters carry an intensivist and a critical care paramedic, so it’s common practice to fly them out to transfers, especially if they’re coming a long distance in rough terrane, even if the patient is then transported by road with them on board.

    And finally, it’s the Daily Mail. I’d take everything they say with a huge pinch of salt. Although there may be a basis behind the story, they’re the least credible source of news in the UK with a reputation for hyperbole not seen since the propaganda of WWII and a habit of making up soundbites (see Brian Kellett’s interview a couple of years back).

  2. I was thinking the same thing where you mentioned shoe vs. bird in the rotor . Would there be a single helicopter left in the sky? They’d need some magic voodoo bird whistle to scare the birds away from the copter and the sound would have to reach the birds before the copter did.
    Helicopters would fall from the sky. Then what ? All ground EMS would be wound out and wide open , and just who gets the rush to the closest trauma care facility and how soon do they arrive? And, what nut-job is going to make the headlines getting in the way of that ???!!! (Now there’s a good Southern rambing for ya !)