Yorkshire Air Ambulance has started carrying blood on board so critically-injured patients can get transfusions at the scene of accidents or in the air.

The potentially life-saving initiative has been funded through a £16,000 donation from the Henry Surtees Foundation, founded by motor sport legend John Surtees CBE after his 18-year-old son died competing in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2009.

The donation has paid for specially designed, thermostatically controlled boxes for the safe transport and storage of blood, as well as the equipment needed to warm it prior to transfusion.

Dr Jez Pinnell, Medical Adviser at Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “People with traumatic injuries are at greater risk from bleeding to death so having blood available on the air ambulance will benefit those patients prior to arriving at hospital.

“It will buy us extra time and allow us to replace the blood they’re losing. I believe it will be a great step forward in enhancing care for patients when they most need it and would like to thank our partners in making this possible.”

Blood is being supplied by the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and will be delivered from Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield by the Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes charity service.

Mandy O’Shea, who is Chief Biomedical Scientist - Blood Transfusion at the Trust, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project. As a department, we have been responsible for developing and delivering training to all those involved in the process. Having blood on board the Yorkshire Air Ambulance will make a significant difference to those critically-ill patients requiring a blood transfusion at the scene.”

Blood will initially be carried on the Yorkshire Air Ambulance flying from the charity’s air support unit at Nostell, near Wakefield, which has a doctor on board. Further paramedic training is planned to enable the service to be extended to its second helicopter based at RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk later this year.

Paranjit Bharaj, Regional and Blood on Board Project Manager for Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes, added: “Providing the daily, ‘Blood On Board’ delivery service from the Pinderfields Hospital to the Air Support Unit at Nostell is a service we have easily adapted to as we operate a fleet of cars and motorcycles to provide an ‘out of hours’ urgent transportation service, which is free to the NHS, to support hospitals and hospices across Yorkshire.”

Yorkshire Air Ambulance, which also started night flying operations this month, serves five million people across Yorkshire and carries out over 1,250 missions every year. It has two, state-of-the-art Airbus H145 helicopters.