Meet the man behind a life-saving transport service for critically ill infants and children across Yorkshire

For more than a decade there has been a team, often invisible to the untrained eye, that has been integral to providing health care for the sickest babies and children from Yorkshire, Ruth Dacey reports.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 4:31 pm
Pictured, Dr Jessica Oldfield (left), a transport consultant and neonatologist with Rose Kent, advanced nurse practitioner with The Embrace Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service. The service provides life saving care from a specialist team doctors and nurses who travel with their patients by road ambulances, helicopters and planes. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMediaResell

Operating out of a tucked away business park in South Yorkshire the specialist doctors and nurses team, who travel with their patients by road ambulances, helicopters and planes, has carried out nearly 25,000 missions including many vital ventures across the globe.

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A leading consultant from the Embrace Yorkshire and Humber infant and children’s transport service, who have had to turn his leadership focus towards aiding critical transport for coronavirus patients over the past 12 months, hopes after a “rollercoaster year” the dedicated work of health care workers will be reflected in long term funding for the future.

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Over the past 12 years Dr Steve Hancock, (pictured) the lead consultant for paediatrics at Embrace, said every day has been “strikingly different” from helping 400g babies, who have been born 16 weeks early, through to 15-year-olds who might weigh 100 kilos and have septicemia.Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMediaResell

Over the past 12 years Dr Steve Hancock, the lead consultant for paediatrics at Embrace, told The Yorkshire Post every day has been “strikingly different” from helping 400g babies, who have been born 16 weeks early, through to 15-year-olds who might weigh 100 kilos and have septicemia.

As part of the Barnsley-based service, they have also transferred unwell young people - from far flung places abroad including Dubai, Iran, the Philippines along with a number of locations in Europe - to hospitals in Yorkshire.

Dr Hancock, 51, said despite the complex environment to work in - which includes navigating the round-the-clock service that moves more than 2,000 young people a year by ambulance and a smaller number by helicopter and planes to hospitals across the region - was rewarding.

He said: “Every day is different - you don’t really know what you are going to come across.

Pictured, Annabelle Butler with her father Jo Butler. The two-year old was transferred four months ago to Sheffield Children’s Ward by the Embrace service after becoming unwell. Photo credit: Submitted picture

“We help the doctors and nurses there care for some of the sickest babies and children... and get them to the hospital to receive the care that will get them on the road to recovery.

“That is really rewarding.”

Dr Hancock said it was vital the service - part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust - had long-term funding especially to continue to provide support for young people particularly in more rural communities.

He said: “It’s really important - we see our role as helping to provide a equitable health care system - if you’re a baby or a child who lives in one of the smaller towns or communities in one of the smaller towns or communities in Yorkshire and the Humber you should be able to get access to the same level of healthcare.

Operating out of a tucked away business park in South Yorkshire the specialist doctors and nurses team, who travel with their patients by road ambulances, helicopters and planes, has carried out nearly 25,000 missions by ambulance, helicopter and plane. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMediaResell

“We take intensive care to the patient.”

One of the children helped by the team this year was two-year-old Annabelle Butler, who was transferred four months ago to Sheffield Children’s Ward by the Embrace service to try and work out what was causing her persistent high fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.

There was concern that the unwell youngster was suffering from a suspected PIMS-TS (Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome) which is linked to COVID-19.

However thanks to Annabelle and her father being transferred from Worksop to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, by the embrace ambulance team, she was able to swiftly receive a series of scans – on her heart, kidneys, blood, urine and stool – plus a COVID-19 test before she was diagnosed with a kidney infection because one of her kidneys was a few centimetres larger than the other.

Annabelle was treated with intravenous antibiotics for a few more days before her temperature began to settle down.

Her father Jo Butler, 34, stressed the need to invest long term in the service.

He said: “Everything goes out the window when your kids are sick, money, your house, your job.If your kid is sick you’d give it all up in a heartbeat to look after them.

“How you look after people when they are most vulnerable says a lot about you as a society and for me you almost can’t spend enough on that sort of thing.

"A social network should be there to pick you up when you are at your lowest."

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