Designing a new model for air ambulance services

Air ambulance services are a critical part of how we respond to health emergencies in New Zealand.

The demand for air ambulance services has been rising and is predicted to continue rising. Both the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO) and the wider air ambulance services sector recognise that the existing operating model is not sustainable. That’s why the Ministry of Health, the Accident Compensation Corporation and district health boards, through NASO, are leading an air ambulance co-design project.

The aim is to have a national integrated network that covers all of New Zealand, is well linked with other emergency services, and provides around-the-clock services that are sustainable and contribute to improved patient outcomes. Around half of air ambulance missions are inter-hospital transfers (IHTs) of patients, and this is an important part of the network. Communities will continue to receive air ambulance service during this process.


Key objectives of the project are to:

  • develop an air ambulance service that is people-centred, clinically appropriate, integrated, nationally consistent, coordinated and sustainable to contribute to improved patient outcomes
  • use a co-design approach to establish national and/or regional service requirements
  • use structured market engagement to establish how greater efficiencies can be achieved to improve the sustainability of the service in the long-term
  • run an open and competitive procurement process which will enable current and other potential providers to respond to the opportunity to deliver the service into the future.

Outcomes we are seeking

  • Effectiveness: to provide patients and communities with equitable access to care with the right skills, in the right place and at the right time.
  • Efficiency: to efficiently task aeromedical assets to appropriately meet patients social and clinical need.
  • Risk reduction: to manage the safety risk posed to patients and staff in the use of an aeromedical service capability. The demand for air ambulance services has been rising and is predicted to continue rising.

Patients are at the centre of defining what an effective new service model looks like – and we want the best possible outcome for every patient who uses the service.

We recognise that communities provide support and local Trusts arrange commercial sponsorship for their local air ambulance services and that will continue in the foreseeable future. The procurement process will follow the government rules of sourcing and will have independent probity oversight.

What has been happening?

A project governance group has been established with representatives from ACC, the Ministry and the DHBs. This provides the governance required to ensure any future service model integrates and coordinates both emergency retrievals and inter-hospital transport.

The project approach and timeline is as follows:

  • Stage 1: Initiation (October 2016 – March 2017) [completed]
  • Stage 2: Pre-procurement (October 2016 – March 2017) [completed]
  • Stage 3: Structured Market Engagement (Co-design) (April – November 2017) [completed]
  • Stage 4: RFx Process (March 2018 – May 2018)
  • Stage 5: Implementation (May – October/November 2018).

In February 2017, members of the project team met with 15 different stakeholders to seek information on a number of issues and further understand the challenges of the process ahead. These sessions, although relatively short in duration were all positive and highly productive.

In June a series of regional workshops were held with the sector, followed by in-depth detailed issue workshops in August and September.

These have assisted in clearly defining levels of service, community expectations, and what it would involve in resourcing from Government, sponsors and community services.

A business case has been presented to government. An Air Ambulance Helicopter Service RFP was published on GETS on 26 March 2018. For more detailed procurement information please refer to the GETs website.

Please contact if you have any questions.

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