HomeAeromedical Conference 2019
12 July 2019

Aeromedical Conference 2019


On Wednesday 26th June, we held the 10th anniversary of our Aeromedical Conference. This year’s theme was ‘Reflect, Learn, Innovate.’ Here’s what happened…

Phil Grieve – Flight Paramedic, REACH Air Medical Service, San Diego

Phil Grieve

Phil is a British Paramedic who lives in San Diego. Prior to emigrating nine years ago, Phil was the Clinical Manager for Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT). He worked with the team to turn several ideas into reality including this Aeromedical conference, converting Essex Air Ambulance to a doctor/paramedic model and implementation of the then new Herts Air Ambulance operation.

Phil’s presentation showed his passion and commitment to patient care. He told us to question the basic things we do really well, then constantly practice these – ‘practice until it isn’t fun any more.’ He explained how we to be mentally prepared when arriving on scene and then reflect on everything done; being willing to ask the difficult questions improves care.

Dr Phil Cowburn – Medical Director, Charli Watkins and Dee Gordon – Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care, Great Western Air Ambulance (GWAAC)

Phil is a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Bristol Royal Infirmary (University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust) and Consultant Trauma Team Leader at North Bristol NHS Trust Major Trauma Centre. He was one of the original doctors that set up GWAAC in 2007. He is also Acute Care Medical Director for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation. Charli qualified as a Paramedic in 2006. She joined the Hazardous Area Response Team in 2010 and has been with GWAAC since 2016. Dee has been flying with GWAAC since 2017, after qualifying as a Paramedic in 2010.

The team presented a gripping case study on profound hypothermia following a drowning event. The presentation highlighted the psychological impact on the team, even if though the patient outcome was a ‘miracle’. A good outcome doesn’t equal the crew being fine. They reminded us that none of us are immune to the feelings and impacts of the role and advised us to share our thoughts with colleagues, as they may be feeling the same. After meeting the patient at an airbase visit, Charli and Dee told us how this helped to provide closure on such a difficult case.

Assistant Commissioner Graham Ellis – Head of Operational Resilience and Special Operations Group, London Fire Brigade 

Graham Ellis

Graham is responsible for the preparations, training, response and recovery for a range of natural and terrorist threats, and overseeing fire service operations across the Greater London area. He works with multi agency partners in London, across the UK and internationally to share lessons and seek to improve the emergency services response to ongoing high threat challenges.

He explained how over the years he has seen ordinary people, do extra-ordinary things when faced with major incidents. He told us of how passionate he is about protecting his colleagues, ‘look after yourselves and look after each other.’ We learned that the vast majority of London Fire Brigade’s work involves educations communities that are most at risk – prevent, protect, prepare.

He said that the dilemma faced by the emergency services is the balance of safety of responders, policy, procedure, law and actions required to save lives and manage hazards. He mentioned how the speed of response is critical and early declaration of major incident ensures all responding parties are ready. To reduce risk to operational crews, we must have joint intelligence, training and planning.

Graham’s final point was to ‘look out the windscreen, not the rear view mirror.’

Dr Matt O’Meara – Pre-hospital Care Consultant, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance

Dr Matt O'Meara

Matt worked as a Trauma Anaesthetist in the Midlands prior to joining EHAAT in 2015. He has been interested in pre-hospital medicine since he was a Mountain Rescue Volunteer. He explains that helping people at their greatest time of need is a real privilege and a humbling experience, particularly when seeing patients coming back to say hello!

Matt presented a case study on an incident he had attended where a patient had been trapped for a prolonged time between two HGVs. The team had to decide how to extricate him and whether they would need to amputate his leg. At this time, EHAAT did not carry blood products, so the team liaised with the local hospital to bring blood to the scene. When released, the patient went into cardiac arrest, but the team achieved ROSC.

“Training helps you, but it’s only when faced with a real life situation that you will know how you will act.” This case highlighted what people envisage as a true HEMS job.

Sam Immens and Elisabeth Hanrahan – Critical Care Paramedics, New South Wales (NSW) Ambulance Rescue Helicopter

Sam Immens and Elisabeth Hanrahan

Sam was initially an Emergency Nurse working in Australia and overseas before becoming a Critical Care Helicopter Paramedic, working in Sydney, Wollongong and Orange. He enjoys the variety of helicopter primary work, the complexity of secondary cases and the multi-dimensional role of the access taskings that his group face. Elisabeth has chased every opportunity within NSW Ambulance. She has recently started working part of each year within the Helicopter Paramedic Training Unit which involves training in clinical, aviation, remote area access and rescue aspects of the role.

Sam’s and Elisabeth’s presentation proved the point of moulages; sometimes they may seem unrealistically challenging, but every one is based on a real job. They presented a fascinating insight into rural, winch-based extrication in the Australian outback, where a patient had fell into the bottom of a 20 metre hole. They had a lot of obstacles to overcome: winch access to get to the scene, treating and extraction of hypothermia trauma patient. This case highlighted the importance of communication, understanding everyone’s unique skill sets, respecting them and allowing people to work to the best of the ability.

Alex Beresford – TV Presenter and Anti-knife Crime Campaigner

Alex Beresford

‘Good Morning Britain’ weather presenter Alex’s cousin Nathaniel Armstrong was tragically killed during a knife attack earlier this year. Days earlier, Alex had intervened during a knife crime debate on ‘Good Morning Britain’ arguing that building more prisons was not the way to tackle the epidemic. Since then Alex has investigated the topic further in a documentary titled ‘Knife Crime and Me’, where he spoke directly to gang members, others who carry knives and those who have not followed a life of crime.

Alex gave a very personal and in-depth insight into knife crime in the UK. He explained how he feels that knife crime is a demographic issue and that early intervention by educating children is a step towards preventing it. Gang members are often groomed into the gang due to environmental or social factors with no escape. Key take away – we need to treat knife crime like a disease.

Dr Ben Swift – Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist

Dr Ben Swift

In 2005 Ben became a member of the Royal College of Pathologists by examination in Forensic Pathology, and later a Fellow. He is also a Foundation Member of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of London. In 2018 Ben was appointed as an Honorary Consultant to the Royal London Barts NHS Trust for his on-going work with the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Team and London’s Air Ambulance Service (HEMS).

Dr Ben Swift opened by asking clinicians to consider how they describe wounds – blunt force or sharp force? He explained how Forensic Pathologist’s take information from knife wounds to help assist police investigations; they are able to tell the width/length/type of knife. He told us how speaking with HEMS crews has helped in his own development on learning about modern advances in procedures. He is now able to decide whether the wounds he is examining are assault wounds or clinical intervention incisions.

Dr Duncan Bew – Consultant Trauma and Acute Care Surgeon and Clinical Director of Major Trauma and Acute Surgery at Kings College Hospital

Dr Duncan Bew

A massive thank you to Duncan for stepping in at short notice to fill our last speaker spot of the day. Considering he was not there to hear Alex’s earlier presentation, a lot of what Duncan said married with Alex’s presentation. A common idea that arose from these two presentations is that the perpetrators of knife crime are in fact victims themselves.

He discussed trauma care and reminded us that prevention is better than a cure. He voiced how in this time of knife crisis, he feels that social/youth workers should be an essential part of the Emergency Department team, reaching out to those when they are at their most vulnerable. He told us how over the last few years there has been an increase in younger ages suffering assault injuries being admitted to major trauma centre’s.

Jack Lynch raffle winner

We wrapped the day up with a special raffle prize to mark our 10th anniversary of Aeromed. Jack Lynch of London Ambulance Service was the lucky winner of an all expenses paid trip to Retrieval Conference 2020.


We have had some lovely comments from those who attended on the day. We thought we would share them with you.

  • “Great conference, this is the third I have attended and thoroughly enjoyed all of them, I’m sure I annoy my colleagues talking about the case studies as much as I do.”
  • “A great blend of clinical learning, humour and interesting presenters. Thank you so much for hosting this each year.”
  • “This conference is always one of the best conferences I attend and I attend more than 10 conferences per year. It is impressive that EHAAT have managed to keep it free and allow people from all areas and backgrounds to attend. A truly phenomenal event!”
  • “So professional and inclusive. Such a valuable free event for learning.”

Thank you to all our speakers, delegates, staff and volunteers for another great Aeromed! See you next year – register your interest here.


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