THE air ambulance for Oxfordshire has become the first in the country to carry a machine which analyses blood.

Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance is carrying a £10,000 I-Stat portable blood analyser this month.

It is the latest step by the service, which relies solely on fundraising, to provide more healthcare on board its EC135 helicopter.

The helicopter, based at RAF Benson, already has an ultrasound machine and blood stocks.

It says the first 60 minutes of an emergency – the “golden hour” – is vital and such equipment can save lives.

Dr Syed Masud, a helicopter emergency medical service consultant (HEMS), praised the development.

He said: “Our mantra is ‘bringing the hospital to the roadside’ for the patient.

“We have achieved this by introducing ultrasound and blood on the aircraft ensuring that the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance is one of the leading HEMS units in the country.

“This small portable machine gives us hospital accuracy blood results within minutes.

“The result of this will help us make clinical decisions for the patients.”

Changes of oxygen and salt levels are among key readings provided by the machine.

The service was launched in 1999 and has flown 14,936 missions in its ‘patch’ – Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Flights have two paramedics while doctor support is also available and the helicopter is often in demand to fly to places that are hard to reach for ground-based crews.

Air ambulance chief executive Mark McGeown said: “We have seen an increased demand over the past year.

“This is testament to the quality of emergency care that our medical crew can provide.

“The use of specialist equipment is an important element of this.”

The service costs about £165,000 a month to run. To support the charity call 0300 999 0135.