Motorsport legend funds air-ambulance blood service

John Surtees
John Surtees

A benefactor has come forward to cover the costs of a project to fly blood to critically-injured patients, first used after a crash on the A1 at Berwick on Wednesday.

Motorsport legend, John Surtees OBE, founder of the Henry Surtees Foundation, will help to fund equipment for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which began carrying blood on board their aircraft in the region, including Northumberland, this week.

The first patient to be administered blood in the new service was the driver of a van involved in Wednesday’s accident, near the Ramparts Industrial Estate. He was flown to the RVI in Newcastle in a critical but stable condition.

The foundation’s undisclosed donation to GNAAS will buy thermostatically controlled boxes and blood warmers to enable them to carry out blood transfusions at the scene of life-threatening accidents.

They will also provide two 4-wheel drive Vauxhall Mokka vehicles for the Cumbria Blood Bikes and Northumbria Blood Bikes to give them all-weather transport for the ferrying of blood between hospital and aircraft.

John Surtees OBE, said: “With a background in motorsport, I have spent my life chasing time round the race tracks of the world.  I know that every second counts and none more so than for the air ambulance services when accidents or illnesses occur.

“Last year the foundation supported the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, with a similar initiative. This has had an immediate result in the saving of injury and life. During the first year alone, over 70 transfusions were successfully carried out”.

GNAAS doctor Rachel Hawes, was serving as a reservist in Afghanistan when she witnessed military helicopters delivering blood transfusion supplies directly to the scene of severely injured patients. She recognised its potential in the NHS and on her return set about creating the Blood on Board project.

She said: “One of the first things medics have to do is stop any bleeding to save a patient’s life and many seriously injured patients risk bleeding to death. This project will bring life-saving treatment to the patient’s point of injury. That could be on the roadside, on a hill top, or in a remote community, in cases where previously the patient has had to wait until they get to hospital. This will transform pre-hospital care and save multiple lives. It is going to be of huge benefit to the region.

“We want to thank the Henry Surtees Foundation who has come forward to support us.”

The new service, which was launched on Tuesday, is the result of a collaboration between GNAAS, Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, Cumbria Blood Bikes and Northumbria Blood Bikes.

For more information, visit