We had an exceptionally pleasant day last week, far removed from the usual belly aches and drunks that we normally find ourselves attending.

'SCBU transfer – Newham to Oxford'

In all the years that I've been in this job I've never had to do a SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) transfer. Normally it is the job of BETS (Baby Emergency Transfer Service… I think), they have a special vehicle, special staff and they do this sort of thing all the time.

What this meant for us was that we would have to store our normal trolley-bed at station, pick up the special straps that are used to secure an incubator in the ambulance and then transfer the baby in the incubator along with the Doctor and nurse team to the other hospital.

I don't mind telling you that neonates, especially sick neonates scare the living hell out of me. It's purely a lack of experience thing, when I was working in A&E I almost never saw any child under the age of six months or so, in the ambulance service the aforementioned BETS deal with these very young, very sick patients.

A couple of my friends have done secondments on the BETS team and they have all enjoyed it and learned a lot from it – the Doctor and nurse team like to involve the ambulance crew as much as possible so that you aren't just 'the driver'.

I'm not entirely sure of the reason behind the BETS team needing a frontline A&E ambulance to do their work that day, through conversation, I suspect that they are a bit short of their normal ambulance staff because local ambulance managers are refusing to release them from their normal duties to work on BETS. 'Losing' a member of staff to a secondment doesn't help with the much more important ORCON eight-minute target.

We arrived at Newham hospital in good time, having just been taught how to use the straps to secure the incubator – the bags the straps come in have illustrated instructions on how to fit them, which is good for us slightly dense ambulance staff.

Sadly for my crewmate and I, who like a nice drive out to the country now and again to see the trees, the transfer location had been changed to a local hospital.

The BETS Doctor and Nurse (and departing night-shift ambulance person) were incredibly nice, and very jolly. They involved us in the baby by explaining what was going on with it – they don't need to because in this situation all we are is essentially a very specialised taxi-driver, the Doctor and nurse look after the patient, all we have to do is (a) Not get lost, and (b) Don't crash. However it's very nice to be involved with the patient, and in those few minutes I learned some new things.

The transfer itself went very smoothly and the team told us to grab a cup of tea from the receiving SCBU tea-room. It would be rude to refuse such an offer.

The doctor then informed us they they had another transfer if we were interested…

I called up Control and explained the situation, as we already had the securing straps and had left our trolley-bed on station I thought that it would be worthwhile for us to continue with this second transfer rather than faff around getting another ambulance ready. Control agreed, as they often will do when 'on the ground' knowledge seems to make sense.

So we drove to a hospital on the edge of London and transferred another neonate into a specialist unit.

These two transfers were so involved that, with the exception of an early morning back pain call, they were the only jobs we did that day.

It also gave us the warm fuzzy feeling that we rarely have, the feeling that you are actually helping someone who needs serious medical care. Both these patients were incredibly sick and we were playing a little part in the chain of care that they were getting from the midwives, Doctors, nurses, HCAs, radiographers, haematologists and all the others in order to give them the best chance of life.

I doubt anyone from the BETS team read this, but if they do I'd just like to thank them for an exceptional day and for making us feel welcome in their world. They aren't often talked about in public, but with around seven transfers a day, they do an incredibly important job.

8 thoughts on “BETS”

  1. I know what you mean about being intimidated by these tiny people!I was fixing some printers in SCBU recently (keeping well away from anything with DNA!) and I mentioned to the sister that they worried me, despite having two kids of my own.

    Once I had finished my job, she pointed out each of their patients, told about them and their names. I still make sure to keep well away from them but it's a great thought to feel that I am helping someone so helpless…

  2. Thats what I feel as a Community First Responder, I don't do that much usually (we don't get to defib so many!) other than o2, monitor and reassure, but I'm a little part in a big chain of care and it does give me a warm fuzzy feeling πŸ™‚ Especially on the odd occasions people say thankyou….

  3. & cheers to the bets staff who were kind as well as professional! pity you don't run into a cup of tea more often πŸ™‚

  4. & cheers to the bets staff who were kind as well as professional. too bad you don't run into a cup of tea more often πŸ™‚

  5. I'm currently working in a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). In our region the service is known as NEST (Newborn Emergency Stabilisation and Transfer) and they do a truly amazing job! I'm glad that you had a good day.P.S I still am terrified of neonates and I see them everyday!! It's when the pesky buggers forget to breathe that they are truly terrifying!

  6. Thank you for this post,19 years ago my little girl (just 1lb 12oz) was taken from the brilliant Ipswich hospital to Adenbrooks, because of a heart valve problem, thankfully the journey did the trick and solved the problem.

    I was so scared I sat with a paper bowl all the way there and the crews were brilliant.

    So if anyone remembers me please accept my thanks.

    I'm so glad you had the chance to work with these wonderfull people Tom, like you all they are unsung heroes.

  7. Ive been reading your blog for a while, and I thought Id take this opportunity to say hi. Im part of the organisation that co-ordinates neonatal transfers for London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent. We deal with transfer requests every day, and although its probably one of the most fulfilling parts of my job, I am often very grateful to be on the other end of the phone, rather than dealing with these tiny babies directly.You know, BETS need to use a frontline ambulance on a semi-regular basis, perhaps next time we should suggest to Control that we want the ambulance that has Tom Reynolds on it πŸ™‚

    PS. We also book Holy Joe journeys, but Im not taking responsibility for the odd occasion that we send you to an address only to discover that the patient is actually in Newham hospital

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