£1.25 million donation enhances intensive care service


A transformational £1.25 million donation has brought life-saving equipment to critically ill patients in the South West.

The donation part-funded the establishment of the Bristol Adult Respiratory ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) Service in November 2022. The service brings together expertise from North Bristol NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust.

Artificial lung for patients with critical respiratory condition

One of only six ECMO centres in England, the specialist service – which is based in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) – uses an artificial lung located outside the body to treat patients who have a critical respiratory condition.

The artificial lung oxygenates the patient’s blood and returns it to the body. This process temporarily does the work of the lungs to allow them time to heal.

Bethany’s story

Bethany was admitted to Southmead Hospital in December 2022 with a suspected chest infection. After being reviewed, a specialist recommended that she be transferred to the BRI for ECMO treatment. She became one of the first ECMO patients in Bristol.

Woman propped up in bed with two NHS staff members at her side.

Expanded service and innovation in the ICU

After a year of the service, the ECMO team has successfully treated 16 patients, giving them the best possible chance of recovering from severe illness.

Bringing this innovative service to the region has also led to the adoption of new techniques to improve patient care. This includes using a less invasive method of inhaled sedation and quicker mobilisation of a patient while receiving ECMO, to lessen the effects of long stays in an ICU bed.

In October 2023, the service expanded to provide a 24/7 retrieval service across the South West. Working alongside the Retrieve transfer service, the team is now able to transport critically ill patients to the BRI for specialist care.

Transforming patient care

It’s thanks to continued donations – large and small – that North Bristol NHS Trust can establish innovative approaches to patient care over and above what the NHS can fund.

To find out about more projects, roles, research and equipment made possible by your donations in the last 12 months, please take a look at the latest issue of our supporter magazine, Southmead Stories.

You can support patients every step of the way at North Bristol NHS Trust by donating today. Thank you.  

Thank you for your support – it makes a huge difference to our patients, their families and our staff.

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