Is helicopter rescue effective?

Helicopters are used widely throughout Europe as emergency ambulances in a primary responder role in post-impact care and have been used in this role in Germany since the early 1970s. They are thought to be useful in improving response times and removal times to and from the scene, giving a more appropriate level of response, and providing access to more appropriate hospitals. Research shows that using helicopters to transport patients does not influence greatly their probability of survival, they are costly (between around 0.5 million 1.5 million euro annually to operate) and not without significant crash risk [16][7]. No cost-benefit analyses of improved provision of medical services for those injured in traffic accidents have been found. A cost-benefit analysis of the national air ambulance helicopter service [15] concluded that the current service in Norway carried out by these helicopters had a benefit-cost ratio of around 5.4. Rescue helicopters carry out both search and rescue missions and ambulance transport. For the search and rescue missions, the benefit-cost ratio of current services is around 4.9. For ambulance services, the benefit-cost ratio was calculated to be around 5.9.


If helicopters are operated, the evidence suggests that it should be on a regional basis in a secondary responder role in which they are called out at the request of emergency personnel at the scene or at a primary receiving hospital [7].


© 2007 SafetyNet. All rights reserved | Disclaimer | Contact