Emergency Medical Retrieval Service

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The crest of the EMRS

The Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS), is a medical retrieval initiative operating in the West of Scotland. It provides patients in remote and rural areas with rapid access to the skills of a consultant in emergency or intensive care medicine as well as facilitating transfers to larger, better equipped city hospitals. The team respond to calls 24 hours a day by road and also by air where services are provided in partnership with the Scottish Ambulance Service utilising both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.[1] The EMRS now operate as part of ScotSTAR, the Scottish national retrieval service, sharing a bespoke base at Glasgow Airport.


The EMRS team (red) with Paramedics (green) load a patient bound for the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow

The EMRS was formed in 2004 after a consultation between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Scottish Government Health Department and the Scottish Ambulance Service.[2] The EMRS was based at Glasgow City Heliport and initially operated only in the Argyll and Clyde area. The EMRS attended 40 patients over the 12 months.[3] In 2007 the service was extended to cover three rural general hospitals and 13 community hospitals as part of an 18-month trial funded with £1.59 million.[4] The success of the service saw its operating zone expanded throughout the West coast of Scotland and the EMRS now operates from Stranraer in the South to Stornoway in the North.[5]

In March 2010, the Scottish Government acknowledged that due to its continuing success, the service would be further enhanced by the addition of a second team, operational from October 2010.[6] The second team increased the number of participating consultants and Doctors from eight to fifteen.[7] Annual running costs were now in the region of £2 million.[6]

In June 2014 they began to routinely carry a stock of O negative blood to allow transfusion earlier when responding to emergencies.[8] During the period of the 2014 Commonwealth Games a third team of medics was available.[8]

As of December 2014 the staff of the service had expanded to include 27 part-time consultants and had completed more than 3,000 retrievals.[9]


Map of the area currently covered by the EMRS, showing medical facilities served

In addition to responding by road the EMRS is supported by aircraft from the Scottish Ambulance Service's Air Ambulance Division, and the helicopters of the Royal Navy's Search & Rescue squadron, Rescue 177, based at HMS Gannet, Prestwick Airport, near Glasgow.[10] The service responds to seriously ill and injured patients, often in remote locations, who require early critical care interventions and quick transfer to a better equipped, urban hospital.[11]


The EMRS functions supplementary to the regular Scottish Ambulance Service Air Ambulance service. Unlike air ambulance services in other parts of the UK, both services are funded by the Scottish Government.

The EMRS feature occasionally on the Channel 5 documentary series Highland Emergency, which charts the work of rescue services in the Scottish Highlands.[12]


Many other countries with large populations in rural or inaccessible areas have developed similar schemes. For example, the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia operates on very similar lines to the EMRS. New Zealand and Canada have also developed similar patient retrieval services in support of their rural health care practitioners.


March 2010 saw the EMRS win the Secondary Care Team of the Year category in the BMJ awards for its work in “transforming the care and transfer of seriously ill and injured patients in remote and rural Scotland”.[13] This award recognised hospital teams that demonstrate improved outcomes of medical & surgical conditions.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.emrs.scot.nhs.uk/ EMRS Official website
  2. ^ Whitelaw, AS; Hsu, R; Corfield, A R; Hearns, S (January 2006). "Establishing a rural emergency medical retrieval service". Emergency Medicine Journal (London: BMJ) 23 (1): 76–78. doi:10.1136/emj.2005.025528. PMC 2564140. PMID 16373814. 
  3. ^ Corfield, A R; Thomas, L; Inglis, A; Hearns, S (2006). "A rural emergency medical retrieval service: the first year". Emergency Medicine Journal 23 (9): 679–683. doi:10.1136/emj.2006.034355. 
  4. ^ "Medical airlift service extended". BBC News. 25 June 2007. 
  5. ^ "History". Glasgow: EMRS. Retrieved 2009-11-18. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b "Flying doctors flying high" (Press release). Scottish Government. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  7. ^ "Flying doctor service takes off across Scotland". BBC News. 25 October 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Weldon, Victoria (12 June 2014). "Flying doctors add new team to cover Games emergencies". The Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2015. 
  9. ^ "Rural fast-response medics to be celebrated". The Scotsman. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "'Flying doctors' for west coast". BBC News. 2 June 2008. 
  11. ^ "What we do". Glasgow: EMRS. Retrieved 2009-11-18. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Spin Doctor (EMRS Newsletter)" (PDF). Glasgow: EMRS. January 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  13. ^ "Q&A: Dr Stephen Hearns of EMRS". Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). 30 June 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  14. ^ "Previous Awards". BMJ. Retrieved 27 October 2010. [dead link]

External links[edit]

Official website