New training course for life-saving lung technique

NHS staff will be trained to use an intensive care technique that provides life support to patients with severe respiratory failure, through a new short course from the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has been used throughout the Covid pandemic and most prominently when Perthshire man Grant McIntyre spent 43 days on it in 2020.

ECMO essentially allows the lungs to rest by pumping blood out of the body and through an oxygenator, adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide, before pumping oxygenated blood back into the body.

It removes the need for patients to use their lungs and therefore recover and allow other treatments to work.

Aberdeen was appointed Scotland’s first dedicated ECMO centre in 2020, having been a satellite hub for the UK service since 2009.

Since it was established, the service has provided ECMO support to over 60 patients and managed over 350 referrals from all over Scotland.

The ECMO management course will be delivered by the University of Aberdeen’s School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition in partnership with NHS Grampian.

ECMO has been used extensively throughout the Covid-19 pandemic but had already seen an increase in use in the years prior. 

The new specialist training programme is designed to introduce the management of adult patients on ECMO. It explores the challenges experience by healthcare professionals caring for ECMO patients with an emphasis on practical bedside decision-making, identification of complications and troubleshooting.

NHS Grampian is now the National Provider within Scotland for Adult Respiratory ECMO and also hold the Platinum ELSO award, that requires academic education as part of their provision. ARI have been the recipient of Platinum award from ELSO (Extracorporeal Life Support Organization) for the past 4 years.

In addition to its long-standing healthcare education at UG level, the SMMSN is developing a suite of postgraduate and professional courses in response to local and national NHS needs to meet national training guidelines. The ECMO Management course has been identified as a priority in order to upskill staff since the pandemic.

Aberdeen’s Scottish ECMO centre is the only centre in Scotland that does respiratory ECMO, which the course will focus on.

An event outlining how the ECMO service was established and its benefits will be one of the sessions making up the NHS Scotland National Event in Aberdeen on June 21-22.

Helen Gray, Lecturer in Health Care Education at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Aberdeen Royal Infirmary has built up expertise in the use of ECMO over the last decade or so, something recognised in its appointment as the Scottish ECMO Centre at the start of 2020.

“Being a treatment for severe respiratory failure, it has obviously been used intensively throughout the pandemic. It is a treatment that can also benefit patients suffering from a wide range of other conditions and as such this course will be invaluable to train more staff to be able to use this life-saving therapy.”