The Wessex Trauma Network is part of a national system which launched across the country in April 2012 and consists of 25 centres supported by surrounding hospitals known as trauma units.
An independent audit, produced by the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN), has found critically injured patients now have a 63% better chance of survival – with 0.7 additional survivors for every 100 patients treated at Southampton General Hospital, the regional trauma centre.
More than half of all major trauma – the term used to describe life-threatening injuries commonly sustained through road traffic accidents, falls, violence or sporting injuries – happens on the road and it is twice as common in urban areas than rural parts of the country.
Southampton General Hospital, which is run by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, is 1 of only 12 centres across the country to offer the full range of specialist surgical, intensive care and supporting services for both adults and children who suffer major trauma.
Last year, the centre saw 571 patients with immediately life-threatening injuries compared to 272 in 2012 and 419 patients with potentially life-changing injuries compared to 226 in 2012.
Patients across the region with potential major injuries now bypass their local hospitals to go directly to Southampton if their injury occurs within a 60-minute drive, while those injured further afield are taken to their nearest trauma unit and assessed and resuscitated before being rapidly transferred if they require specialist intervention. Patients from the Island are often transferred by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance or Coastguard Helicopter either directly from the scene of an incident or from the helipad at St Mary’s Hospital, Newport.
In Southampton, emergency department consultants and senior trauma team leaders are now on-site 24/7, while 9 emergency and anaesthetic doctors also fly regularly with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance team to provide trauma centre expertise at accident scenes.
The trauma centre is supported by 7 units – based at Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Poole, Dorset, Salisbury, Chichester and on the Isle of Wight – as well as 2 ambulance services and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. Together, these organisations form the Wessex Trauma Network, which is at the forefront of pioneering innovations in trauma care across England.
Among recent developments are a smartphone app, devised by anaesthetists Dr Matthew Julian and Dr Simon Hughes in Southampton, which provides clinicians with instant access to advice and guidance to treat a range of trauma injuries.
UHS has also partnered with the University of Southampton to offer the first Master of Science (MSc) degree in trauma sciences with direct access to a level one trauma centre, enabling students to follow the patient journey from pre-hospital care to acute rehabilitation.
Dr Mark Baxter, director of major trauma at UHS, said:
“The development of major trauma centres and networks have ensured patients are treated by the right clinicians in the right locations as quickly as possible and that is why we are seeing such fantastic improvements in survival.
“We have a tremendous network in our region with excellent teamwork across our ambulances services, trauma units and the trauma centre and clinicians throughout the WTN are constantly looking for ways to improve further.”
Dr Hughes, a member of the trauma team at UHS, added:
“These are extremely exciting times for trauma care in the region and nationally, with developments such as our smartphone app and pioneering MSc course leading innovation nationally.”