GNAAS doctor receives recognition from Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for blood work


Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) doctor Rachel Hawes has received recognition from Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for her ‘Blood on Board’ (BOB) work.  Eighteen lives were saved in the first year of the project, which sees GNAAS performing rapid blood transfusions to patients with a life or limb threatening injury at the scene of an incident.  Luitenant Colonel Hawes from the 201 Northern Field Hospital was praised as ‘Reservist of the Day’ at the ceremony at HMS Calliope, Gateshead, on March 21, with the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Susan Winfield, who recognised those who have made a significant impact in the community. “It was a massive honour but I must stress that the project has been a team effort.

Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) doctor Rachel Hawes has received recognition from Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for her ‘Blood on Board’ (BOB) work. 

Eighteen lives were saved in the first year of the project, which sees GNAAS performing rapid blood transfusions to patients with a life or limb threatening injury at the scene of an incident. 

Luitenant Colonel Hawes from the 201 Northern Field Hospital was praised as ‘Reservist of the Day’ at the ceremony at HMS Calliope, Gateshead, on March 21, with the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Susan Winfield, who recognised those who have made a significant impact in the community.

“It was a massive honour but I must stress that the project has been a team effort. Without everyone involved, it would not have been possible,” said Dr Hawes.

GNAAS teamed up with The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustNorthumbria Blood BikesBlood Bikes Cumbria Community and Henry Surtees Foundation to make BOB happen.

“Dr Hawe’s work epitomises our mission – to deliver world class care to our patients – and we are all extremely proud of her here at GNAAS,” said Grahame Pickering, chief executive of GNAAS. 

Read the transcript of her achievement below:

Lieutenant Colonel Hawes’ devotion to the provision of healthcare and its continuous improvement is second to none. Through her determination, dedication and tenacity to improve the care that traumatically injured patients receive at the roadside she has created a service that within its first year of existence has resulted in 18 lives being saved which includes, nine people who would have died had the changes that Hawes introduced not been in place.

An Army Reservist of 16 years, Hawes is employed as a Consultant Anaesthetist with the Great North Air Ambulance Service as a Pre-Hospital Emergency Care doctor, flying to the scene of major accidents. 

In 2011, she deployed on Op HERRICK 13 as an anaesthetist delivering healthcare of the highest standards within the internationally renowned Role 2 hospital. Despite having been 10 previous iterations of Op HERRICK Hawes demonstrated a perspicacity not shown by others to recognise that advancements in military medicine could be replicated in civilian healthcare and the single-mindedness to deliver it. 

Through a thorough and detailed analysis of injuries suffered by servicemen, their treatment and ultimate outcomes Hawes recognised that one of the major contributing factors to injured personnel surviving the most serious of traumatic injuries was the presence of early blood transfusion for patients, delivered at the point of injury. This capability was delivered by the Medical Emergency Response Team via CH-47 Chinook helicopters that carried blood on board. It was this concept that Hawes developed into ‘Blood on Board’.

With no such pre-existing civilian capability in the North East of England, Hawes had to translate a military concept into one that would succeed and be sustainable in an increasingly constrained National Health Service. This cannot be underestimated due to the Byzantine bureaucracy through which she was required to navigate. Gaining agreement to proceed from each of the key partners, the Regional Blood Transfusion Service, the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Great North Air Ambulance Service, was in itself a feat that tested her resilience severely. This culminated in the activation of the ‘Blood on Board’ capability in January 2015.

The ‘Blood on Board’ service transports blood from the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to Great North Air Ambulance Service helicopters, located at strategic positions across the region. Lifesaving blood transfusions are delivered at the roadside within one hour of a transfusion being requested. An incredibly complex service with many moving parts and time-critical deadlines, Hawes conceived, planned, created and delivered this lifesaving service. The scale and complexity of this task would have overawed a lesser individual but was one that Hawes relished and excelled in. She has immersed herself into every part of the process to ensure that this service was a success and ensuring the patients receive the pinnacle of healthcare.

Lieutenant Colonel Hawes has had a profound, clearly demonstrable and long lasting effect on the provision of healthcare in the North, which will undoubtedly continue to save lives.

It is for her commitment and dedication to developing and introducing systems that have saved many lives that Lieutenant Colonel Hawes is awarded the Lord-Lieutenant’s Certificate for Meritorious Service.

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