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We are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted in three categories in the Air Ambulances UK ‘Awards of Excellence’ this year.

These annual awards celebrate and recognise the specialist lifesaving skills and commitment of those working tirelessly within and in support of the air ambulance community across the UK. This year we are finalists in three categories: Special Incident of the Year (sponsored by Aegas), Young Person of the Year and Doctor of the Year (sponsored by Leonardo Helicopters).

It is wonderful that Dr Hughes’ surgical expertise has been acknowledged in the Doctor of the Year category, for Mike is different to other Air Ambulance doctors in that he comes from a surgical background, something that isn’t often seen in the helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) – a world which is largely populated with doctors from anaesthesia and emergency medicine.

Once Dr Mike Hughes set his sights on HEMS, a pivotal conversation set him on a seven-year path to LNAA, changing the way surgery is carried out on the scene and leading the way for young surgeons.

A different type of consultant

Mike is different in that he comes from a surgical background, something that isn’t often seen in HEMS – a world which is largely populated with doctors from anaesthesia and emergency medicine. But since joining LNAA in February 2022 he has dealt with some of the most challenging shifts over the summer, carrying out interventions using a skill set that the other doctors do not have.

When he attended a patient who had been stabbed in the neck, rather than apply direct pressure to the bleeding wound, he was able to dissect down, clamp and then tie off the bleeding vessels. He then delivered the patient to the nearest Major Trauma Centre with mosquito forceps in situ around two vessel ends and a very dry field. This is a technique that is not in the skillset of any other doctors at LNAA and in very few across the air ambulance community.

Mike’s story begins when he meets LNAA’s Prof Anil Hormis in 2015. Mike was a junior surgical trainee and Anil was a Training Programme Director for PHEM training. When Mike outlined his air ambulance ambitions, Anil was clear that it would be challenging to enter this world with just a background in surgical training. He advised Mike to spend at least six months training in anaesthetics.

Five years later, when Mike had become a senior surgical registrar, he contacted Anil again for career advice. Anil said: “I started my email back to Mike with ‘we discussed this Mike, you need to do some anaesthetics’. His reply was “oh yes, I did that when you told me to. I took a year out and did six months of anaesthesia and six months of ICU training’.” Following this, Mike told Anil that he had been doing one shift a month in Scarborough hospital to keep his skills up. Anil was amazed and came to fully understand how serious Mike was about a career in HEMS.

Drawing on his surgical knowledge, Mike has designed a set of safety checklists for invasive procedures (LocSSIP). They are taken from what is done in hospital but made specifically for the pre-hospital environment. The impact of this helps to prevent never events and aids in greater success when performing surgical and invasive interventions.

His colleagues describe his attendance and participation in D&D as extraordinary. He is always willing to discuss his cases in a very open and transparent way and constantly strives to improve and learn from other team members. His enthusiasm is infectious.

A high-performing member of the team

Mike is without a doubt a high-performing member of the team. He has also made his name with the charity team after joining the Summer Step Challenge in which he was regularly spotted walking laps of the helipad.

Anil said: “Mike has an incredible future ahead of him in PHEM. He will be a huge role model to surgical trainees in the sphere of trauma surgery and in pre-hospital medicine. Mike will pave the way for trainees from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds to enter PHEM training and to show how they bring a different perspective to our work. It has been a total pleasure to work with Mike in the last six months and see how he has flourished since sign-off day. Mike is currently collecting all the evidence he needs to be eligible to sit the FIMC and there is no reason why Mike cannot work as a Trauma Surgical Consultant as well as keep up as a HEMS Physician.”

LNAA’s Deputy Medical Director, Doctor Adam Chesters said: “Almost immediately after being signed off in the service, Mike attended a series of difficult cases, treating some of the sickest patients attended by the service in this time. Despite his relative inexperience in the pre-hospital setting, he was able to help deliver the very highest quality of care, blending his surgical expertise with a true understanding of the disease process and physiology that he was seeing in the patient.

“His reflections are genuinely humble, and he supports his colleagues unhesitatingly. Mike is a pleasure to have on our team, universally liked by the paramedics with whom he works and respected by his peers. For the consultant body, we could ask for no finer clinical fellow to represent the service.”

LNAA has also been shortlisted in the Special Incident of the Year category. The skill of the LNAA crew has been recognised when they had to think fast in a rare situation involving the administering of anaesthetic to a child following an incident at a swimming pool.

Our Young Person of the Year finalist is eight-year-old Bradley, who took on an amazing charity cycle challenge to raise funds for the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance after recovering from an horrific crash on his bike earlier in the year.