North East Children's Transport and Retrieval Service (NECTAR) officially launched

Child healthcare experts in the North East are delighted to announce a major boost to the region’s specialist Paediatric Intensive Care retrieval service with the launch of NECTAR – North East Children’s Transport And Retrieval.

This life-saving service will be enhanced by the unveiling of a brand new base for our children’s specialist retrieval team and two brand new, hi-tech ambulances – brightly adorned with the NECTAR logo and kitted out as mobile intensive care units.

The NECTAR team with one of the new hi-specification ambulances

NECTAR ensures that critically ill children (from birth to 18 years of age) are transported rapidly by an expert team to one of the Paediatric Intensive Care Units (PICUs) we have here in the North East: the Great North Children’s Hospital at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Dr Iain Johnstone, Consultant Paediatric Intensivist and Co-Clinical Director of the Great North Children’s Hospital explains: “The Great North Children’s Hospital alone performs in the region of 250 retrievals each year. These are for children, infants and even new-born babies who are extremely unwell with conditions such as organ failure, life-threatening heart problems, traumatic injuries and severe respiratory illnesses.

The new, improved service embraces the involvement of other paediatric specialists in the North East and North Cumbria, and, whilst still hosted by the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, will offer a much more streamlined and overarching approach for children all over the region.”

There has been a 50% increase in the number of retrievals since the service began in the North East in 1996; a figure that is expected to continue to rise.

Members of the NECTAR team are currently based in various major Paediatric Intensive Care Units (PICUs) across the Region as part of the North of England Critical Care Network. They have extensive experience in providing expert care for critically ill children who need to be transported between hospitals using specifically designed ambulances.

NECTAR’s new headquarters will help the life-saving service run as efficiently as possible, at the Campus of Ageing and Vitality (CAV), previously known as the site of Newcastle General Hospital, in the west of the city. Specialist NECTAR ambulances will be based there due to the close proximity to both the A1 and the A69, allowing the team to reach critically ill children in as little time as possible.

The ambulances, described as ‘mobile intensive care units’, have been specifically developed to improve the clinical outcome of the critically ill children. They will be operated by blue light-trained drivers and will allow one parent to travel with their child.

Dr Johnstone adds: “We envisage that NECTAR will become a comprehensive transport service, not just for those requiring intensive care.  We will endeavour to repatriate children to hospitals closer to home and ensure timely transport to specialist services for those who require it.”

Lesley Durham, Director and Lead Nurse of the North of England Critical Care Network (NoECCN) says:  “The introduction of NECTAR is a fantastic development for children here in the North East and Cumbria. This bespoke service delivered by highly skilled experts using state of the art equipment will undoubtedly strengthen the quality and safety of transport of critically ill children and ensure that they are rapidly retrieved or transferred to the correct clinical environment.

“In addition, NECTAR's new impressive headquarters at the Campus of Ageing and Vitality (CAV) also includes an Educational Hub which will provide specialist training for doctors and nurses across the region which will further ensure the sustainability and resilience of this vital life-saving service. This genuinely is a 'good news story' and the NECTAR development team are to be commended.”

The Hub will also ensure that the expertise of GNCH can be shared with our paediatric colleagues across the region.  This will be achieved by having fully trained doctors and nurses dedicated specifically to transport shifts.  

The new service will also allow children who have been cared for at the Great North Children’s Hospital to be moved back to their local hospital in the safest way possible.

We are very excited to be able to expand our services and to extend the expertise of the Great North Children’s Hospital throughout the region.

The new NECTAR service was officially launched on Friday 15th April by local TV personalities, Pam Royle and Ian Payne who were hugely impressed during a tour of the hub facilities.

For more information email: nectar2@nuth.nhs.uk or Tel:  (0191) 282 5777

Notes to Editors

  • North East Children’s Transport and Retrieval (NECTAR)
  • Enhancement of current services based at the RVI’s Great North Children’s Hospital. The Great North Children’s Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit currently operates a paediatric intensive care retrieval service which covers a vast geographical area from West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven to Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. Only Bristol Children’s Hospital covers a comparable catchment in England.
  • The new centre located at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, based on the West Road in Newcastle, enables ambulances to get out and reach their destination faster. Also easier for staff to get to and park as will be staffed regionally.
  • Doctors and nurses will work on a dedicated shift rota for retrieval and transport.
  • Educational hub providing specialist ‘off the job’ training for members of the team on transport shifts.
  • Currently 250 retrievals this year - figure rising each year since service began and expected to continue to rise.
  • New ambulances driven by blue light trained drivers can allow one parent to travel with their child.
  • Regional service which will take critically ill children to one of the three paediatric intensive care units: Freeman Hospital and Great North Children’s Hospital (RVI) in Newcastle, and James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
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