Magpas Doctor takes to the skies in Nepal

As an Emergency Medical Doctor at Northampton Hospital and a HEMS air ambulance Doctor for Magpas Helimedix, the usual daily routine for 35 year old Dr Nick Scott is hectic enough! But, recently his dedication to saving lives took him to the other side of the world; where he spent time in Nepal flying to the aid of seriously injured victims stranded in remote areas, following the country’s earthquake devastation.

Nick normally divides his time between helicopter and the hospital; it’s all part of his training in advanced Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM) with Magpas – one of the leading providers for trauma care in the UK. After a three day selection process earlier this year, Nick also became one of only three doctors in the country to be chosen as a new recruit to work with UKISAR (UK International Search and Rescue). Shortly afterwards, Nick was handpicked to go out to Nepal. The Magpas training and experience played an essential part in transferring his skills to working at a great height, in small spaces and with navigating landing sites by air.

When Nick arrived in Nepal, the remit was focused primarily on search and rescue within Kathmandu, but the operation soon moved into the more isolated areas of the country, where access by land was next to impossible due to road blockages and landslides. Nick was part of a 60 person team, with fire and rescue specialists and five medics (including three doctors and two paramedics). The first step was negotiating getting a private aircraft on board. Then, Nick and his colleagues worked hard to get the right people in the right places with the search and rescue team doing recces by foot, with the help of volunteers and the Nepalese army. The whole programme was very strategic and relied on reports from intelligence (with or without interpreters) as to which locations were the most in need.

Nick and his team were despatched by single engine commercial helicopters from private company Fishtail Air. The helicopters were constantly in use in extremely challenging environments. The pilots had to find landing sites in valleys or at hillside villages at altitude. Each flight either focused on ferrying patients or moving the search and rescue teams back and forth, with a lot of diversions on route. There were three or four trips a day in the aircraft. Once at each location, the fire service gathered information from the elders in the villages to work out where the survivors were; bearing in mind the buildings were 80% or even 90% damaged. As soon as they could, Nick and his team set up health clinics to treat members of the local communities with minor injuries and illnesses. Anyone with serious injuries would then be casevaced, via the Fishtail Air helicopters, to field hospitals.

Nick explains, “In one remote village, a four year old girl suffered a severe thigh fracture and so we flew her to hospital as soon as we could”. Nick goes on to say, “Despite utterly desperate circumstances and immense poverty, the local communities were incredibly resilient and just got on with life”.

Nick spent almost a fortnight in Nepal, going to bed at midnight and getting up at 4 or 5am to recommence his work. Since returning to the UK, Nick describes, “With the sheer scale of the earthquake impact and the number of people who died as a result, it’s impossible not to be affected by the whole experience. But we were given the opportunity to make a difference on a national level and it was a privilege to go out there and fly the flag for the UK. It was a big learning curve and a real pleasure to be working with fantastic people at the top of their game. I was also extremely lucky to be given the time off by Magpas to be there”.