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EMJ prize for Best Poster was awarded to Linda Dykes, Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, North Wales, UK
A3 Those in peril on the sea: the maritime work of the UK military SAR
  1. L Dykes,
  2. M Thomas,
  3. J Hird
  1. Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, North Wales, UK


At any time, thousands of people are at sea around the UK. We wished to ascertain the nature of maritime emergencies attended by UK military (Royal Air Force/Royal Navy) SAR helicopters.

Method All UK military SAR “medrescues” 1 January 2009–13 March 2010 were entered onto a database. Clinical scenarios were extracted from winchmen's reports. Acuity was estimated using the Manchester Triage Score.


  • Of 907 SAR medrescues during the 15.5-month audit period, 172 (19%) were maritime.

  • Mean age of casualty 44 years (range 16–87); 90% male.

  • Of 130 reports with vessel type noted, 28% of casualties were from fishing boats, 20% military ships; 12% dive boats, 11% passenger ferries/cruise ships and 10% oil rigs. The remainder were on boats ranging from small pleasure craft to oil tankers, plus one surfer.

  • The aircraft was able to land on the vessel in 13% of the 168 jobs where this information was recorded, mainly oil-rigs and military ships. The remaining 87% were winched aboard the aircraft.

  • 7% of cases were diving-related emergencies; 53% medical/surgical and 40% trauma (including drowning/near-drowning).

  • 151/172 cases had sufficient information to enable estimation of Manchester Triage category: 66/151 (44%) were category 1 or 2 and 77/151 (51%) category 3. Only 8/151 (5%) were category 4. None were category 5.

Conclusion Medical emergencies at sea are surprisingly diverse, with a wide variety of major and minor injuries & illnesses. This series ranges from diving emergencies, major trauma, an elderly cruise ship passenger with a ruptured AAA, and obstetric emergencies. Our data are retrospective and the MTS is not designed for prehospital use, but most maritime cases attended by RAF/RN SAR helicopters appear to be genuinely urgent. Lives would be at risk without the service, which features both winching capability & a technician or HPC-registered paramedic on board.

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