Puma helicopter in medical evacuation from Arran

A Puma helicopter, like the one used in Arran evacuation, seen during detachment training exercise.

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The transfer of a critically ill patient on Arran has become the first island medical evacuation in Scotland to be carried out by an RAF Puma helicopter based at Kinloss.

Three Pumas are currently based at Kinloss Barracks in Scotland as part of a new Aviation Task Force which was set up to support the government’s response to coronavirus.

However, despite earlier reports from official government sources, the Arran transfer was not COVID-19 related. Instead, it is understood the patient was in a diabetic coma.

The crew were called at 1am on Wednesday to support the transfer of the patient to University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock. The three-person helicopter crew flew to Arran, where they landed at Sandbraes in Whiting Bay and met the emergency medical care team on site.

On its arrival on the island, the aircraft temporarily shut down while the emergency medical team attended to the patient and prepared them for transfer.

The Scottish Ambulance Service emergency medical retrieval team travelled on the aircraft with the patient and met their special operations response team and divisional crew on landing for onward transfer to hospital.

Using procedures previously rehearsed with the emergency care teams, the patient was then swiftly loaded onto the aircraft and transported to the Intensive Care Unit at Crosshouse Hospital. The patient is now receiving the enhanced care required to support their recovery.

UK government minister for Scotland Douglas Ross said: ‘I would like to wish the patient a speedy recovery and thank the team from Kinloss Barracks who were involved in the airlift. This is another example of the fantastic effort the UK’s Armed Forces are providing to support patients across the UK and help health professionals tackle coronavirus.’

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘The medical evacuation is a great example of the UK Armed Forces’ ability to support our most remote communities across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. I am proud of the skill and professionalism of our personnel and their support to colleagues in the NHS and social care.’

The Scottish Ambulance Service has significantly increased capacity for airlifting patients off the islands and to ensure that any patients from our island communities, including those with coronavirus symptoms, can be transported to receive the appropriate healthcare when they need it. This includes the use of SAS resources, ferries, maritime coastguard, Logan Air and the armed forces. ​​

Squadron Leader Johnny Longland, Detachment Commander said: ‘Just over 3 hours after the crew received the call, they had travelled 162 nautical miles and the patient was in the Intensive Care Unit. The training that we conducted with the emergency medical teams across Scotland ensured that, when the time came, we were all ready for a quick and smooth transfer of a patient.

‘We’re extremely proud to be able to help the NHS in Scotland and it’s rewarding to see the team pull together so quickly and effectively when they were needed. Our thoughts are with the patient and their family and we wish them a swift and full recovery.’


A Puma helicopter, like the one used in Arran evacuation, seen during  detachment training exercise. NO_B17puma01