The inter-hospital transfer for critically ill patients is a complicated process that requires specialised emergency personnel, equipment and vehicles. The rotor-wing air ambulance has become popular due to its ability to minimise the patient’s time out of hospital, its provision of well-trained flight paramedics or nurses, and its capacity to accommodate the required medical equipment for stabilising critical-care patients during the transfer.

The air ambulance helicopter cabin has remained largely unchanged despite the numerous changes in protocol and the types of patients that are transferred. This project takes a fresh look at the EC135 air ambulance interior through co-designing with a medical flight crew. It addresses the modern requirements, medical crew safety, and increased accessibility of equipment and patient for inter-hospital transfers for the 21st century.

The solution is a simple interior space that utilises spatial configuration, unobtrusive storage, and purposeful precision to enable focus on the patient’s needs. The medical flight crew can manoeuvre their seats to suit the situation. Space is freed up from the removal of the co-pilot seat and relocation of storage to unobtrusive locations. This is balanced with the storage being placed to correspond with emergency procedures and always within arm’s reach.

All items are places into the categories of high usage, high need, and high speed in combination with injury/illness types. This new method of organisation enables higher precision when looking for medication or equipment. The equipment is distributed into treatment packs and/or drawers that are colour coded according to disease states. The portable equipment that used to be placed on the patient is consolidated on a portable carrier that is mounted on the stretcher for easier monitoring and accessibility.

Despite the protocol-driven nature of emergency medical services, the numerous design methods used in this study and the process of co-design allowed the perceived rules of inter-hospital transfer to be reconsidered.

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