Skip to content
left end
left end
right end

Childrens Hospitals Retrieval Service Complete 2000Th Mission

A rapid-response team that brings emergency treatment to the bedsides of critically-ill children in hospitals across the region has completed its 2,000th mission.

The South West Paediatric Retrieval Service, which is a partnership between University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and Great Western Ambulance Service, is based at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and provides intensive care to babies and children - wherever in the region they fall sick.

The number of children requiring emergency transfer from the service has risen from 66 in 1997 - its first year - to almost 250 annually. The children are moved from their local hospitals to the Children's Hospital's paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

When a call is received that a child is in need of intensive care in a hospital that does not have children's paediatric or neonatal intensive care facilities, a mobile team of doctors and nurses is dispatched to the child's bedside. There, the child is stabilised and transferred back to PICU with full intensive care support and monitoring throughout their journey.

Maria Pooley and John Barriball, of Camelford, North Cornwall, are among the thousands of parents whose children have now benefited from the retrieval service. Their son Shane was born with a life-threatening heart defect at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro.

The retrieval team was called to transfer him within hours of his birth to the Children's Hospital in Bristol, where he was able to receive heart surgery.

Maria said: "The retrieval team was fantastic. Without it, Shane would not have been able to receive the care he needed to pull through his ordeal."

Children such as Shane who are treated by the service are desperately ill, with conditions such as heart disease, meningitis, pneumonia and kidney failure.

Members of the retrieval team are trained to care for patients while travelling on the move at high speed.

The team transports the youngsters to specialist intensive care at the Children's Hospital from an area ranging from Truro to Swindon and Cheltenham and Gloucester. It also transports children requiring emergency heart surgery from South Wales.

A transport team consisting of an intensive care consultant, junior doctor, intensive care nurse and two Great Western Ambulance Service crew is on constant 24-hour standby.

The team can be dispatched within 30 minutes to travel to a child's bedside. On the outward journey they are in constant communication with their destination and offer advice about a child's treatment.

On arrival, the team ensures the child is fit and stable for transfer to Bristol and can spend as long as 10 hours working to improve a patient's condition.

The family of a sick child can also travel with the service to Bristol, where arrangements can be made for their overnight accommodation.

The number of children needing emergency transfer to Bristol has increased fourfold since the service began in 1997, so that last year the team brought almost 250 youngsters to PICU.

The team comprises children's intensive care nurses and nine consultants, together with a rotating group of doctors who come to PICU to gain experience in the field.

Dr Stephen Marriage, who has headed the service's medical team since 2001, said: "Over the years, the hard work of a small group of dedicated nurses, doctors and ambulance staff has resulted both in many young lives being saved and improved recovery for many children.

"It has been a privilege to have helped 2,000 youngsters and their families through the most difficult times of illness and injury."

PICU senior nurse/matron William Booth added: "Thousands of young lives have been saved by the skill and dedication of my colleagues. I am immensely proud to be part of that team."

Tim Lynch, chief executive of the Great Western Ambulance Service, said: "This is a perfect example of how NHS Trusts are working in partnership to benefit patients. It is very rewarding for our staff to be able to provide such a vital service to families across the South West."

The Bristol Royal Hospital for Children is one of eight city centre hospitals managed by the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UHBristol).

For further information, contact Ian Probert at the UHBristol press office on 0117 342 3751 (email or call Debbie Pugh-Jones, communications manager, Great Western Ambulance Service, on 07967 646517.


  • The South West Paediatric Retrieval Service was set up in response to 'A Framework for the Future', a national report to the NHS Executive. The report, published in 1997, reviewed children's intensive care provision and concluded that "a paediatric retrieval service should be funded and staffed on a 24-hour basis in each geographical region".
  • The South West Paediatric Retrieval Service is funded directly by the South West Regional Specialist Health Authority.
  • The number of children requiring emergency transfer by the South West Paediatric Retrieval Service has increased from 66 in 1997 to almost 250 during 2006.
  • The South West Paediatric Retrieval Service is run jointly by the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the Great Western Ambulance Service.
Posted: 11/05/2007 13:27:24 by Kate Birch