Defibrillator-bearing drones used to reach heart attack patients


Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance have unveiled an ambitious Five-Year Strategy: ‘Working Together to Save More Lives‘.

KSS Air Ambulance Strategy

With demand for Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) at an all-time high, they have set-out ambitious plans to develop their core life-saving service, to build on their research and innovation programme and to introduce new Patient and Family Aftercare and community-based initiatives.

One of the key-projects towards their vision is the investigation of the use of drones to get defibrillators to those in need more quickly. The Charity also wants to develop their operational and finance model in order to be able to fly a further 6 hours each day, with one helicopter available 18 hours a day and one 24 hours a day.

Location of Defibrillators in Crowborough

Crowborough has over 40 Public-Access Defibrillators (PADs) thanks to provision by local organisations and because of generous donations to the Crowborough Community First Responders allowing them to purchase and maintain the life-saving devices. But provision in isolated rural areas across the region is more limited, because PADs are generally placed in an area with a large footfall.

In the event of a cardiac arrest, each minute that passes without intervention—including defibrillation—reduces the chance of survival. When you ring 999 the ambulance service will direct you to the nearest defibrillator to your location. However, there is a list on the Community First Responders’ website of defibrillator locations in Crowborough.

David Welch, Chief Executive

As David Welch, Chief Executive explained, through even closer collaboration with key partners they are committed to working together to save more lives:

As one team, Team KSS, we will act decisively, and collaboratively to achieve our ambitious plans for the future – reaching more patients, improving more outcomes and working together to save more lives.

Collaboration and partnership are key to our success, especially with our colleagues in South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), the wider NHS and the communities we serve. To realise our vision, we need our communities to come together to enable sustainable change so that together we can save more lives. Our future success is very much dependent on the dedication, expertise and passion within the wider KSS family who will all play a key role in the ongoing implementation and success of our strategy.

It currently costs over £15.2M a year to operate our life-saving service, with 86% of our total income raised through the incredible generosity of our supporters which ensures we can give every patient the best possible chance of survival and recovery. To enable our success we will increase awareness of our life saving work and inspire even more support from our communities. Together we can achieve great things.

Chief Executive, KSS Air Ambulance

An Ambitious Strategy

Following the busiest year in their 32-year history in 2021, during which they responded to 3,051 incidents including medical emergencies, road traffic collisions and accidental injuries, 2022 is proving to be even busier. Their Strategy focuses on meeting this growing need through the development of their core service, which takes the emergency room to the scene 24/7 to deliver life-saving care.

They have said their Strategy also enables us to evolve and extend their service, with the introduction of innovations and initiatives to save even more lives amongst the 4.8 million people who live in Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex plus the many millions more who travel through the region every year. These include:

  • Developing their aviation capability – this will include developing their aircraft operational and finance model to a single type fleet operating for a further six hours each day, with one helicopter available 18 hours a day and the other 24 hours a day, and developing all weather aircraft operations through performance-based navigation.
  • Continuing to deliver outstanding pre-hospital emergency medicine – developing their clinical leadership and clinical governance structure to further develop their consistently high standards of clinical care.
  • Implementing their research and innovation outputs – this includes investigating the drone deployment of defibrillators and continuing to develop techniques to deliver advanced medical interventions in the helicopter cabin. This can save us time on scene and even better support their patients in transit ensuring time critical arrival at the hospital most appropriate to their ongoing treatment and care.
  • Developing community-based initiatives to prevent and respond to medical emergencies – this includes a community-based prevention, education and training programme, a HEMS Academy for healthcare and emergency response professionals, and a community-based first responders’ programme.
  • Evolving their Patient and Family Aftercare Service – which supports patients and their families in their rehabilitation and recovery.

Dr Duncan Bootland, Medical Director, said:

To realise our vision of an end to preventable loss of life from medical emergency, we need to collaborate with like-minded organisations to deliver community-based initiatives that prevent and respond to medical emergency. When those emergencies do occur, we need to deliver the best possible medicine and provide ongoing support and aftercare, giving our patients and their families the best chance of a better future.

Dr Bootland, Medical Director

Barney Burgess, Chair of their Board of Trustees and former patient, added:

Our Five-Year Strategy has been created in collaboration with staff, volunteers, Trustees, supporters and key stakeholders. We have focused on those areas where we can make the biggest difference to the care we provide and to our patient outcomes. Through examining the effectiveness of our service, thinking differently about how current problems could be solved, and ultimately looking at how we could further develop to deliver better patient outcomes, we have outlined our goals with related key projects that will drive our service forward.

Chair Board of Trustees

KSS Air Ambulance provide world-leading pre-hospital emergency care whenever and wherever required, across South East England, to save lives and ensure the best possible patient outcomes. For further information about their plans take a look at their Five-Year Strategy.


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