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Research by KSS leads the way

28th Oct 2021

Alongside being recognised as a world-leader in the delivery of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS), our life-saving charity has gained an international reputation for its pioneering research.

KSS has one of the highest pre-hospital research outputs in the UK, with the aim of furthering the understanding and development of pre-hospital emergency medicine in order to improve patient outcomes. As a charity, our vision is an end to preventable loss of life from medical emergency, and this can only be achieved by developing new knowledge and sharing this knowledge so that, together, we can save lives everywhere.

Recognising the fundamental importance of research in enabling continuous improvement, in 2000 our Trustees established a dedicated research fund, to support a sustained commitment to audit, research and innovation within KSS. A partnership with the University of Surrey was also created to have a formal academic local partner. This allows KSS to support individuals through academic degrees, such as PhDs, and allows collaborative grant applications. The KSS research programme is renowned globally for undertaking pragmatic projects that will have direct impact on patient care.

Since this time, we have undertaken projects on HEMS dispatch, pre-hospital blood transfusion, night HEMS operations and pre-hospital anaesthesia. The results of all of these studies have informed HEMS practice around the globe.

In 2019, a research study with Philips RDT and GoodSAM resulted in KSS becoming the first HEMS service in the world to livestream patient data directly from the helicopter to the receiving hospital and consultants. The pilot study was awarded Innovation of the Year at the 2019 Air Ambulance Awards of Excellence and is now forming the basis of a randomised clinical trial, supported by a large research grant, to see if tasking HEMS and Critical Care Paramedics to major trauma incidents can be improved even further.

In March 2020, KSS became the first HEMS to be rated Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission in all five of its inspection key lines of enquiry:  safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. The Care Quality Commission commented on KSS’s exceptional research record, publishing seven major papers in the 2020-21 year. A paper on pre-hospital anaesthetic practice in particular was cited as practice-changing in the UK. Several of the published papered have gained international recognition, helping to save not just lives in the UK, but across the globe.

KSS hosted the European HEMS and Air Ambulance international research meeting in October 2020, sharing knowledge with over 70 leading European pre-hospital researchers. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted field research, our programme has continued, and over the past two years 11 of our retrospective studies have been published. Research into sudden Loss of Consciousness (LOC) and trauma in older patients both highlighted the critical role of HEMS, and more recently a study looking at incidents involving penetrating trauma – commonly associated with stabbing or shooting – identified a correlation with known County Lines, the networks established by city-based drug dealers to supply and sell drugs to users in towns and rural areas.  The findings of this study will help to inform knife crime prevention strategy and the safeguarding of vulnerable people at risk across our region.

Most recently, two studies by KSS have topped the ratings on Altmetrics, the online portal that monitors how much attention newly published research is receiving. Research into incidence of Hyperoxia amongst trauma patients receiving pre-hospital anaesthesia and a study scoping the pre-hospital management of penetrating neck injuries have been shared globally.  

Professor Richard Lyon MBE, Associate Medical Director at KSS and Professor of Pre-Hospital Emergency Care at the University of Surrey, said: “KSS is known for undertaking pragmatic, informative research projects, exploring all aspects of HEMS operations from tasking to clinical care and team working. Our research portfolio aims to inform improvements in care that can directly lead to improved patient outcomes. We strive to disseminate our research findings widely, in a fully transparent way, to improve not just the care of our patients but also the care of patients around the world.”

Lynne Harris, Executive Director of Income Generation, Marketing and Communications, said: “I am immensely proud of our research programme at KSS, which continues to grow and to break new ground. Our charity exists to save lives and to improve outcomes by bringing the best pre-hospital care to critically ill patients wherever they are, whenever they need it. Sharing our research is an important part of this, so that we can help shape HEMS practice across the UK and beyond.”

“This is only possible through the generosity of our supporters, and I want to thank you all. By supporting our charity, you are helping to improve wider HEMS practice so that, together, we can save even more lives. We could not do what we do without you.”

KSS has one of the highest pre-hospital research outputs in the UK
KSS has one of the highest pre-hospital research outputs in the UK
Professor Richard Lyon MBE, Associate Medical Director
Professor Richard Lyon MBE, Associate Medical Director
Lynne Harris, Executive Director of Income Generation, Marketing and Communications
Lynne Harris, Executive Director of Income Generation, Marketing and Communications

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