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What Air Ambulance Services UK are available?

We provide you with all the information you need about air ambulance services in the UK and look at the tips to determine a reliable life flight company.

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An Expert Guide about Air Ambulance Services UK

Reading Time: 13 minutes

An overview of Air Ambulances Services in the UK 

For quite a while now, the aviation industry in the UK has evolved to cater to the needs of the medical industry. Air ambulance services-related sector grew as a result of a pressing need to transport passengers with a medical need/ deficiency to another location, whether short or long distances. Before the advent of air ambulances, patients who were unable to fly commercially because of their sickness and injury were limited to using ground ambulances, which are restricted in their usage if you wish to cross UK borders. 

Hence, the usage of air ambulances in the UK became more common, specifically in terms of medical repatriations. It is a reliable alternative that enables the effective transportation of patients in a medically supervised and organised way, thus facilitating better access to appropriate medical care. In today’s era, air ambulance usage has become so common that it would not be surprising for you to see one flying around on a mission. 

There are two main types of air ambulances available to UK residents and citizens: Ambulance helicopters and ambulance planes. Both are widely used depending on circumstances. The typical distinguishing factor would be the route, which has a direct correlation to the distance that needs to be covered. 

For short distances, an ambulance helicopter or a small ambulance plane is ideal because of its range and speed and longer distances would necessitate an ambulance plane such as a Bombardier Challenger 650 or a Bombardier Learjet 60. An aircraft can travel to any country across the globe rapidly, which reduces some of the strains of travelling for patients. 

Bombardier challenger 600

Regardless, when it comes to the safety of passengers, both types of air ambulances have been designed in such a way that optimal care and treatment can be administered during the voyage. They are outfitted with the medical equipment and devices that are necessary for a patient transfer. As such, even those who are in constant need of medical supervision and care have the opportunity to travel without compromising their health. 

With the prevalence of air ambulances and the efforts deployed by companies such as Medical Repatriation UK, these medical planes and helicopters are now accessible to all UK residents and citizens. Easy accessibility to air ambulances promotes inclusion in the world of medicine since you can now fly to another location easily to obtain treatment and care. 

Air ambulances services used for medical repatriation

One of the common reasons UK citizens/residents require air ambulance services is for medical repatriation. What is this and why do they have to have recourse to this? 

2.1 What is medical repatriation? 

Let’s take into consideration the following scenario: You are in Spain on holiday. After two weeks of fun, during a hike at Caminito del Rey, you fall down and get injured. You are going to obtain initial/emergency treatment but in the case of a serious injury, you might be unable to walk or even sit upright. The doctor recommends complete bed rest until you are recovered, which might take weeks or months. You do not wish to stay in a foreign country with a broken leg or back and flying commercially is not possible because of the high risk of aggravating the injury and your health. In this case, you can opt to charter an air ambulance to get back to the UK. The process of getting you back home is called medical repatriation. 

Medical Repatriation occurs whenever you are outside of the UK and because of sickness/injury, you wish to get back home while being under medical supervision. An air ambulance is the preferred mode of transport because it allows you to travel without being concerned about your health deteriorating. The journey will take place in a ‘flying ICU’, which means no dearth of medical equipment and you will be constantly cared for by a doctor and paramedic. 

Why opt for medical repatriation to the UK? 

Travelling while you are sick is not a pleasant experience. Why then opt for medical repatriation? The comfort and privacy offered by an air ambulance are unrivalled and the additional perks offset the troubles of flying. With air ambulance providers taking care of the whole medical repatriation process, patients can relax throughout the whole journey. Instead of sitting upright, they will lie down on a stretcher with professionals caring for them the whole time. With their comfort and medical needs taken care of, there is no ground to delay a trip back home. Below are some common reasons behind medical repatriation to the UK. 

3.1 High healthcare quality at low cost in the UK 

One of the goals of the NHS is for the health care system in the UK to “become one of the best in Europe and even the world”. With specialists in several areas of medicine, there have been reports that the NHS is the leading institution in the world when it comes to equity of access. Its forte is protecting people from heavy financial costs when they are ill. Praised by many as being the fairest system in the world by sharing the costs via taxation, it is no surprise the NHS attracts British citizens and residents from everywhere across the globe. There are two main risks associated with receiving treatment and care abroad:

  1. Inadequate treatment or care is being administered, especially in developing countries which are not yet as progressive as the UK. The medical facilities will be subpar to what UK citizens and residents are accustomed to, with specialist care being practically non-existent in some cases. 
  2. In countries offering a high level of care, there is the risk of hospital/doctors bills being too high. For instance, if you fall sick on a trip to the United States, you will have to disburse around €170 for only a general practitioner visit. The amount to be spent on a major surgery can only be imagined. 

As such, British patients find it more effective, both in terms of cost and healthcare quality, to come back to their home country, either to obtain treatment, or to recover from a medical emergency. 

3.2 Better for their mental health

Being in your home country, closer to their loved ones is important for patients because it increases their morale and helps them recuperate faster. Many of our patients wish for fast medical repatriation because being away from their loved ones in a foreign country can be depressing. Back in the UK, they are surrounded by their friends and family, the people who know about their quirks and things that will comfort them. Instead of wilting away all alone in a foreign country, they prefer to return to their home country where they will be better cared for. 

3.3 Get back to familiar surroundings  

Besides being close to your loved one, medical repatriation back to the UK allows you to get back to familiar surroundings which, in terms of your internal networking system, offers several benefits. For instance, in a foreign country, you are going to face language barriers, which may hinder or delay your treatment since there will be a gap in the communication process, obstructing the effective relay of information. For one, you might be unable to express what is wrong and the doctor will be unable to provide details about the treatment being administered and whether it is working or not. 

patient in hospital

Medical evacuation: another use for air ambulance 

Another reason for using air ambulances is medical evacuation. This can be seen as the opposite of repatriation in the sense that the medical flight will take you to another country from the UK. This means that the patients are leaving their home country to travel abroad for some reason. This process is organised by air ambulance providers, ensuring that everything is smooth for patients. 

4.1 Why opt for a medical evacuation? 

Considering the high quality of healthcare available in the UK, why would British residents and citizens opt for medical evacuation?

Exclusive/experimental treatment abroad 

Despite advancements in the health sector throughout the United Kingdom, there are certain conditions for which an appropriate treatment has not been found yet. Nonetheless, there are certain exclusive or experimental treatments being tested in other countries which many patients consider trying as the last attempt to overcome their medical condition. This is part of medical tourism. In hope of a chance of recovery in another country, they opt for medical evacuation. 

To meet their relatives abroad 

In a lot of cases, patients in the UK have relatives, children and friends who live abroad with their families. Favouring an environment where they are among loved ones, they opt for medical evacuation. Considering that patients are more vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, travelling to obtain comfort and care from the people that matter the most to them is a reasonable decision. 

Air ambulance services for inter-country transfers 

Air ambulance services are commonly used to travel within the UK as well. They are not restricted to long-haul patient transportation.

The common method of transportation that comes to mind for patients when movement somewhere is required is ground ambulances. These are viable and affordable options contingent upon certain conditions responsible for the patient’s safety and comfort. One key determining factor is the distance/duration of the trip. A huge distance implies considerably more time to reach the destination. A long journey by road can prove to be quite a burden, two unfavourable factors being the time taken to cover the whole journey and unforeseen, unpreventable circumstances such as an increase in traffic or accidents. These can cause an already tiring journey to be even more strenuous. 

As such, an alternative to ground ambulance trips which can take hours and may be detrimental to the patient’s health is air ambulances. It goes without saying that covering the same distance by air will take considerably less time. This considerably increases the comfort level for patients and eliminates stress that may be detrimental to their health and exacerbate their medical condition. Furthermore, hindrances related to traffic and road accidents are no longer a cause for concern. The journey will be a smooth and quick one as from take-off. 

Inter-country air ambulances services are available to patients who wish to travel to another location within the UK. These trips are often essential to their physical health (transfers to and from the hospital) and mental health (visiting a loved one). They are also common for patient transportation to hospices and nursing homes. 

Different types of air ambulance services for UK residents 

Depending on their personal and medical needs and the length/duration of the journey, those in the UK or who wish to get back to the UK have different types of air ambulance services to choose from. 

6.1 Air ambulance helicopters 

Usually spotted flying around in the UK airspace, these are specially-equipped helicopters used to transport patients. Such flights conducted by Medical Repatriation UK enable the transportation of ICU patients since the aeromedical company outfits its aircraft with sophisticated medical equipment equivalent to that in an Intensive Care Unit

ambulance helicopter

The particularity of ambulance helicopters is that they can land almost anywhere, in accordance with FAA regulations. The general simple rule is that helicopters can land anywhere they can safely fit: a flat surface that has been approved based on the size and weight of the helicopter. Nonetheless, local guidelines and requirements must be adhered to. For instance, in the UK, before landing in a residential area, permission must be obtained from the landowner, whereas for urban, congested areas, permission from the Civil Aviation Authority might be required. Regardless of authorisations, considering the small size of helicopters, they are capable of landing on hospital rooftops, making patient transfer easier and more convenient. 

However, air ambulance helicopters are limited in terms of the distance that can be travelled without a fuel stop. They have a considerably shorter range than airplanes which makes them suitable only to cover short distances such as inter-country transfers. 

6.2 Air ambulance planes

Air ambulance planes are the most preferred option for long-distance patient transfers. Equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, these aircraft are spacious enough to have a medical team on board and, in most cases, an accompanying person. The benefit of these air ambulances is that they can transport patients to any location across the world quickly, safely and efficiently. As such, even those in the most remote locations can count on Medical Repatriation UK to get them back home. 

Patients have the guarantee of being under medical supervision at all times, even during medium or long-haul flights. Without the impediment of having to wait for flight availabilities, they can be transported to their desired destination on the same or following day of the booking. 

Determining a reliable air ambulance service provider in the UK 

Determining the reliability of an air ambulance service provider is not an enigmatic task that cannot be achieved. There are clear indications as to what demarcates an experienced, professional and reliable UK air ambulance service provider. Check out our guidelines below: 

7.1 Medical equipment Available for Your Flight Back to the UK

The distinctive factor of an air ambulance is the medical equipment with which the aircraft is fitted. It is imperative for a medical plane to feature equipment that would ensure the safe transportation of patients, especially those requiring intensive care. One of the benefits of Medical Repatriation UK is that our planes feature state-of-the-art equipment comparable to those in an ICU, ensuring that infrastructurally, there is no shortage of resources to care for patients during the flight. Moreover, the possibility of providing additional appliances specific to your condition should always be offered, as is the case with Medical Repatriation UK, ensuring the safety and comfort of the patient. 

ICU equipment

7.2 Qualifications and experience of flight doctor

Air ambulance doctors have to go through more extensive training to be qualified as flight doctors. This additional teaching period will equip them with the knowledge and skills needed in the aeromedical sector since delivering care and treatment on an airplane in operation is quite different from practising in a hospital. Simultaneously, or even more so important, is the experience of the flight doctor. A certain expertise can only be gained from experience, from practising in a particular area for quite some time. That is why it is essential to opt for a company that has already established itself as a reliable air ambulance provider. At Medical Repatriation UK, we pride ourselves in offering our patients qualified, experienced, caring and emphathetic doctors who will not only offer care but also show kindness, consideration and empathy throughout the whole journey. 

7.3 Fitness of the cabin crew 

Besides their experience and qualification, the health and fitness of the cabin crew, (pilots, doctors and paramedics) are significant factors in ensuring a smooth flight. Operating an air ambulance and conducting missions mid-air requires a sound state of mind for efficient decision-making within a stressful environment. As mandated by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, physical and mental fitness is essential and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) demands that airline cabin crew undergo regular medical assessments. These are essential in determining the aptitude of the individuals who will be taking care of patients during a medical evacuation/repatriation mission. In line with requirements and regulations, Medical Repatriation UK ensures that you are in the hands of able and capable professionals whose first priority is ensuring your safety. 

7.4 Response time 

The response time of an air ambulance provider is essential, both in terms of responding to the initial request and organising the mission. Trips via air ambulances are generally sensitive in nature and they require rapid attention, especially in cases of serious illnesses and injuries. Rapidity, efficiency and know-how are important here. At Medical Repatriation UK, our expert agents are available every day, even during weekends and on a 24-hour basis. They will listen to you, advise and create a solution for you at any time of the day. Moreover, they can often organise an air ambulance trip for you within a matter of days. This ensures that those in need of a quick medical transfer by plane have their needs met. 

7.5 Company’s accreditations 

Check a company’s accreditations to determine whether it is a reliable company that you can trust. It is a form of official recognition from other institutions about the validity of a specific company. For instance, with Medical Repatriation UK’s quality management being certified according to the ISO-9001 norm by both TÜV Süd and Bureau Veritas.

7.6 Transparency about costs 

Being upfront about costs involved right from the beginning is essential to building trust. Finance is a sensitive issue, customers must be aware of what they are getting into right from the get-go. Horror stories about getting air ambulance invoices months after the trip can be discouraging, which is why at Medical Repatriation UK, we ensure that such situations do not occur. During the initial conversation itself, our agents will provide you with a free non-binding estimate about the air ambulance costs. Afterwards, you will receive a quotation by email before the flight, so that you are aware of the amount of money to be disbursed, in complete transparency. There are no hidden costs or bills that will come knocking on your door after the mission. 

air ambulance costs

7.7 Experienced player in a widespread UK aviation network

More experience in a particular industry will ensure that a firm is better able to perform a particular task efficiently and quickly. Besides being able to master their tasks and operations, they can establish themselves as a seasoned player and build relationships and rapport with others. This is essential in the aeromedical space because an air ambulance mission relies on efficient collaboration with several parties. Since Medical Repatriation UK is highly experienced in organising air ambulance flights in the UK, it is an expert in dealing with UK rules, regulations and airports across the country. It is part of an extensive network allowing it to liaise with the various players of the mission and to devise the most efficient solution for you as quickly as possible. 

Industry standards ensuring the safety of a patient onboard an air ambulance 

Considering the sensitive nature of air ambulance operations, there are additional standards in place to ensure the safety of patients onboard medical flights. These stringent rules are additional procedures that must be followed by aeromedical companies. In relation to medical equipment and stretchers, they are specific to air ambulance flights. 

According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority, 

  • A stretcher patient must be accompanied by at least one medical attendant at all times. Exceeding regulations to provide maximum security, all air ambulance flights conducted by Medical Repatriation UK involve two medical professionals on board the flight. This is usually one doctor and one paramedic. Moreover, we provide you with medical experts specific to your case. The same is applicable when we arrange for ground transportation as well.
  • Two-able-bodied persons are given the responsibility of removing a patient from the aircraft in an emergency situation. Medical Repatriation UK ensures that its staff is capable of conducting all operations related to patient safety and care during both emergency and non-emergency situations.
  • Stretcher cases should not be removed from the aircraft until all passengers, patients and accompanying persons, have been evacuated from the plane, which is the case during our medical evacuation/ repatriation missions. Our priority is getting patients safely to their destination and our team will only take care of such tasks after a proper handing over to the receiving team.
  • In the case of aircraft refuelling for an air ambulance, an exit must be designated through which the stretcher can be carried in the event of an emergency occurring. Moreover, an airport fire appliance must be in attendance at all times and fuelling is not permitted with AVGAS. Medical Repatriation UK conducts its operations in such a way that it is in accordance with the necessary requirements.
  • Some air ambulance flights have a medical requirement to avoid big changes in air pressure, in which case they must follow instructions in the Operations Manual of the UK Civil Aviation Authority. These are so-called ‘sea-level’ flights that Medical Repatriation UK conducts depending on the patient’s condition. It has conducted several such missions safely, in accordance with existing regulations. 

Why is Medical Repatriation UK the best air ambulance provider for UK citizens and residents? 

Besides being in accordance with, and even exceeding, industry standards and regulations and fitting in all the criteria demonstrating that it is a reliable and trustworthy air ambulance service provider, Medical Repatriation UK offers patients several added benefits making it the best aeromedical transportation company in the UK. Its experience in the UK and focus on patients’ safety are unparalleled. What else can its clients enjoy? 

  • Multilingual aviation experts: Medical Repatriation UK has aviation experts who are well-versed in almost all languages, from English to Portuguese, Spanish and several Arabic dialects. This means that they are able to organise patient transportation in most countries of the world. Even if you are stuck in a foreign country where you cannot communicate with residents because of language barriers, we can assist you. Medical Repatriation UK will liaise with the doctors and other related parties to make sure that you can enjoy a smooth flight.
  • 24/7 support: Our aviation experts are available round the clock to assist you. Medical emergencies may happen at any time and having to plan a patient transfer might keep you awake at night. Regardless of the time, you will find someone to listen to you at Medical Repatriation UK. This means that we have a quick response time since an agent will always be available to work on your case. Additionally, even if you are stuck in a country with a different time zone, you will be able to reach us without difficulty.
  • Customised solution: At Medical Repatriation UK, we recognise that no two individuals and no two medical emergencies are the same. Each one has its own set of particularities, resulting in a unique situation. As such, a one-size-fits-all approach is not the most effective course of action here. After listening to you and assessing your situation, our agents are going to design a customised solution based on your specific needs. The aircraft, medical equipment and medical professionals chosen for the mission will be according to your requirements. Moreover, a personal quote will be designed so that you do not disburse on services that you do not need.
  • Fleet of air ambulances: Medical Repatriation UK has a fleet of air ambulances, whether it is helicopters and airplanes, of varying sizes and capacities. Consequently, organising patient transpostation is much quicker and smoother. We can have an aircraft at your disposal within days of your booking. Should you require a bigger airplane or a smaller one, we can accommodate your requests depending on our fleet and work out a solution.
  • Bed-to-bed: Medical Repatriation UK offers an all-inclusive patient transportation service. Thanks to its bed-to-bed service, you do not have to worry about any aspect of the medical repatriation/evacuation process, even ground transportation. Medical Repatriation UK will arrange for ground transportation in both countries. We will come pick you up in a ground ambulance either from your home/hospital and take you to the airport. Upon landing, another ground vehicle will already be waiting to drive you to your desired destination. 

ground ambulance

What is being said about Medical Repatriation UK? 

If you want an insight about our methods of operations from a patient/ client’s point of view, check out our customers’ feedback. Their experience and feedback will demonstrate our professionalism and concern when organising patient transports. 

“With this email I will thank you for all of your effort that you put in for my father in law. He is now safe in his homeland thanks to your professional planning. As we all knew his circumstances were not great and for him to be taken from the UK to Iran was also complicated. Although, due to the good planning from your side I am please to say that everything went well and all of the doctors and ambulance staff were very nice and friendly. Best of all, everyone was prompt with their timings so no delays occurred. Overall I would rate your company a full 5 stars.”

“This is just a short note from me and my mother to say a big "thank you" to you, all the team at Medical Repatriation UK and to the two medics who accompanied my mother home from Germany yesterday. Everything went smoothly and Mum was very glad to get home to UK. You all worked incredibly hard, and we really appreciate it.

I was very impressed by the service you gave to me and to my mother. For me, you helped to make a very difficult situation so much easier - it was good to know that I could discuss my concerns with you and that you took them into account. It was also incredibly helpful that you were able to deal with the care home in Germany on my behalf - my schoolboy German had not prepared me for this situation! It took a weight off my shoulders.

Once again, many thanks from mum and me for all your help.”

Contact us for an air ambulance

 If you wish to get in touch with a reliable aeromedical transport company to organise a medical repatriation/evacuation via air ambulance, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our team is available round the clock to assist you and work on your case. Reach them on: