0300 030 2222

We accept referrals 24/7. You will be asked which hospital you are calling from prior to entering a call conference with our Duty Consultant.

Please use the preparing for transfer checklist below to ensure your patient is ready for transfer.

When should I contact Retrieve?

Contact us for any critically ill or injured adult (≥16 years) patient who requires transfer between hospitals.  This includes patients:

  • Who are intubated and ventilated
  • Requiring blood pressure management
  • Require invasive monitoring
  • Require other interventions en-route
  • Who are at significant risk of deterioration
  • From any hospital location including the Emergency Department, Critical Care Unit, Theatres, Cath Lab, Interventional Radiology suite and ward locations, amongst others. 

As a rule of thumb, if you would send a ‘medical escort’ with a patient, then they are likely to be in the scope of Retrieve

If you are in doubt, please call and discuss the case with us.  We encourage early referrals, particularly for time critical patients.

What information do I need?

This checklist will allow you to prepare the information you will be asked for during the referral.

Urgency of transfer

All of our transfers are categorised according to nationally-agreed criteria:

  • Time critical: patients requiring transfer to specialist care for immediate (within 1 hour of arrival) life, limb or sight-saving intervention to reduce risk of imminent death or severe or long-lasting morbidity.
  • Urgent: patients requiring transfer for ongoing time-sensitive management to reduce risk of death or significant morbidity.
  • All other patients who require transfer for elective intervention, ongoing care, repatriation or capacity reasons do not typically have a time element.

Preparing for Retrieve’s arrival

Most patients requiring a Retrieve transfer will benefit from support from your ICU/anaesthesia teams. Ongoing resuscitation and stabilisation, if required, must continue to occur whilst Retrieve are en-route.

The preparing for transfer checklist is designed to help you rapidly and efficiently prepare your patient for the Retrieve team’s arrival. In our experience it significantly reduces the stabilisation and packaging time.

We advocate the use of the Intensive Care Society’s Standard Medication Concentrations

Please inform the patient’s next of kin they are being transferred and offer them our patient information leaflet.

Blood products

If a patient requires ongoing blood transfusion, we will discuss this during the referral and the Duty Consultant may ask you to order blood to be available in a transport box for transfer.

We have a regionally-agreed SOP for this to ensure traceability, blood products are not wasted and transfer bags are repatriated to your transfusion laboratory. 

What happens when the Retrieve team arrive?

When the Retrieve team arrive, they will introduce themselves and identify the clinician(s) in charge of the patient. After confirming patient identification and receiving handover they will take clinical responsibility for the patient.

When patients are time critical and urgent, the Retrieve team will work rapidly to expedite the safe transfer of the patient in order that they receive the care they need in the receiving hospital as soon as possible. For time critical patients, the team are aiming to depart within 20 minutes of arrival.

Retrieve team arriving in hospital

What happens if Retrieve are unavailable or too far away?

When the team are already committed on another transfer, calls continue to be triaged and coordinated by Retrieve and we work with South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SWASFT) to provide an appropriately urgent 999 ambulance, when appropriate. 

We can access a more timely response than the one you would receive if you call 999 or the SWASFT Healthcare Professionals Line yourself. 

Remember an appropriately trained and experienced medical team from your hospital will need to accompany the patient.

If possible, and clinically appropriate (eg. non-time critical, repatriation and capacity transfers), the Duty Consultant will hold a referral as ‘Pending’ until the next available opportunity arises for a Retrieve team to complete it.  This reduces the resource burden on your hospital and SWASFT. 

NOTE: repatriation and capacity transfers are not undertaken by SWASFT and will require a Trust-contracted ambulance if Retrieve are unavailable.

What happens overnight?

Retrieve triage and coordinate calls 24/7.  Overnight, referrals that require a time critical or urgent transfer will receive an appropriately urgent SWASFT ambulance, as described above. 

Additional equipment (e.g. IABPs)

Occasionally patients require specialist equipment that Retrieve do not carry. In such situations, when there is a requirement for this device to continue to be used, it may be necessary to transfer the patient with this piece of equipment. 

The Retrieve team will clean the device, ensure its safety and usually return it to their base (Launceston or Bristol) where collection can be arranged the next working day.  Responsibility for arranging collection and any costs incurred are borne by the referring hospital. 

Occasionally, the Retrieve team may either return items directly or ask a locally-employed Retrieve team member to repatriate them. 

Long distance transfers

Retrieve frequently undertake transfers to hospitals outside the South West.  Time-critical and urgent transfers (e.g. for specialist liver and cardiac care) can occur across the 24 hour period and the team will do their best to support these including, where appropriate, the use of air transportation. 

Some patients require repatriation from the South West to distant locations.  These transfers are rarely time-important and we welcome early contact so that we can discuss these cases in detail.  This may mean we arrange a short case conference so we can better understand the patient’s

Our long distance transfer checklist is designed to facilitate discussions and preparation for these particular transfers. 

Occasionally, the distance is too far to reasonably travel by road and we may refer you to one of a number of private fixed-wing air ambulance companies.