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UK air transfers - information for parents

As a team of specialists in moving babies by air ambulance, we were asked by the team looking after your baby to help move them to another hospital. These pages will tell you more about why we are doing this and what will happen.

Why is my baby being moved?

Babies require moving to another hospital for a variety of reasons. Usually this is because your baby requires specialist care, tests or treatment not available in their current hospital, or your baby is ready to move to a hospital closer to your home. If you have any questions about why you baby is being moved please ask a member of your medical team.

Why is this an air ambulance flight?

If it makes sense to move your baby by air ambulance rather than by road then a flight may be considered. The decision for a flight may be made due to road distances, travel over water or due to your baby’s current condition.

Who is responsible for the flight?

In England, there is no NHS funding for flights for babies. Flights arranged by our team are usually carried out by a private air ambulance company called Capital Air Ambulance and funded by the charity Lia’s Wings. The medical team on your flight will be specialists with training and experience in transferring small and sick babies. Air ambulance companies are registered and inspected by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) and must follow all UK laws and regulations just like hospitals. A flight costs £10,000 to £12,000 so we are very fortunate to have support from Lia’s Wings. Unless you opt out, you will be contacted by one of the charity team leading up to or after the flight to find out how things went and get feedback for the future. They may also ask you for comments and photographs to help with fundraising, but these are optional. Please see the Lia’s Wings leaflet to find out more about the charity

What is the air ambulance like?

We will be using a small aeroplane to move your baby, this is similar to the small private aeroplanes that are used by business executives. The aircraft will fly from and to airports that are near the two hospitals, and a normal road ambulance will be used for a short journey at each end between the hospital and airport. This aeroplane has been specially adapted as an air ambulance and has a lot of the equipment that would be found on a neonatal intensive care unit. The pilots have had special training and are experienced in air ambulance flights

How will my baby be kept safe?

You baby will be put into a flight incubator, which has padding to keep your baby comfortable and a heater to keep your baby warm. A small version of the monitors used in a neonatal unit is built in, to monitor your baby’s heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels. The incubator has straps that work the same way as seat belts in a car, to keep your baby secure. Sometimes we will use a “baby pod” which is similar to an incubator but doesn’t include the heater – this is only for bigger more stable babies who are able to keep themselves warm in a cot. All of the treatment that your baby needs will be carried on during the flight. We carry nappies and all of the normal things that every baby needs for a comfy ride

What preparations are needed?

We may ask for an intravenous cannula (drip) so that we can give fluids or medicines if necessary. Any milk feeds will be stopped a few hours before the flight, but for longer flights we may give a small feed once we are in the air to keep your baby comfortable.


If your baby is not needing any oxygen, we will ask for “low flow oxygen” – these are small plastic tubes that can give a small amount of oxygen into the nose if needed. If your baby is already having some oxygen then we will usually carry on with the same treatment.


We may wrap or swaddle your baby so that they feel comfortable during the flight. We will put covers over their ears to reduce noise, and eye shades to keep out the light. If they do not have a nasogastric (NG) tube then we may ask for one to be put in.


We have a portable freezer to carry any frozen breast milk that you have stored

How will my baby tolerate the flight?

Most babies tolerate an air ambulance flight very well – in fact, research has shown that babies are usually more stable in a plane than on a long distance road journey, which is why we use flights. The plane has a pressurised cabin similar to a normal flight that you might take for a holiday (5000-8000 feet). This means that the air is slightly thinner, so some babies will need a little extra oxygen. We will take any air out of their stomach using the NG tube, because the stomach can become bloated and make them feel uncomfortable.

What if something goes wrong?

Your baby will be monitored by a specialist team with a neonatal nurse and sometimes a paramedic. For babies requiring extra care, we will also send a consultant or similar specialist neonatal doctor or advanced nurse practitioner. The team can provide a full range of emergency treatments if necessary. The team carries a ventilator, resuscitation equipment and emergency drugs. However, we hope to never use these – every flight is planned carefully to avoid any emergency treatment becoming necessary.


If your baby becomes unwell in the hours before a flight, your nurses and doctors will speak to us to decide whether it is safe to go ahead. Minor changes in your babies condition will not normally mean the flight needs to be cancelled.

Can I accompany my child/baby on the transfer?

Yes, we are usually able to take a parent with us. You are welcome to help with nappy changes and feeding if you want to, but it is fine to leave everything to the nurse and doctor if you want. We encourage you to take photos to help remember the day.


You must be medically fit to fly, just as you would be for a normal flight to go on holiday. For mothers who have recently given birth, we need to have a discussion and make sure you are well enough – you need to be able to carry your own bag and walk on and off the aircraft without help. The flights are no worse than a usual holiday flight for turbulence – and often better.

You can bring a small cabin bag with you, which must follow the same rules as a normal flight – no lighters or fuel, no loose batteries and no sharp objects. We usually cannot carry larger items such as car seats or extra suitcases.


You will need a valid passport or a form of photographic national ID such as a driving license.

What will happen after the flight?

Neonatal units are very careful about infections, so your baby will have swabs taken (a cotton wool stick rubbed across the skin) to look for infections, and he or she may be temporarily put into an incubator even if they were previously in a cot. There may be different policies for things like other family members visiting and facilities for parents There may be different routines for medical ward rounds and variations in standard medications such as vitamins and antibiotics. Some of the medical equipment will look different, but perform the same functions. Most families take a few days to get used to all the changes and settle into a new routine.

What if I have more questions?

We want to make sure that you can ask any question that you have and feel happy with all the plans before we go ahead with a flight. The nurses and doctors who are looking after your baby can ask our team to call and speak with you directly. You might also like to speak to one of the team at Lia’s Wings – the volunteers and staff of the charity have supported many families through the process of an air ambulance flight and can share the experiences of other families in your situation.

Consent for information sharing with Lia’s Wings

The charity relies on the support of individuals and companies to fund the flights that we provide. Parents are often happy for us to share their child's story to help raise awareness of what we do, and to share photographs taken during the flight. We would also like to contact you to offer support in the days leading up to the flight, and afterwards to get your feedback and find out how it went for you.


You are under no obligation to share information with Lia’s Wings, and if you would rather not share your information, it will not affect your baby’s care or the charity’s support. Your medical team will talk to you on the day of the transfer and ask if you are happy to share information with the charity.

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