Eighteen lives have been saved as a result of air ambulances carrying blood on board, the charity has said.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which covers the North East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, started the scheme in January 2015.

Since then, medics have performed 60 transfusions, a third of which were deemed to have been of critical importance to survival.

Many others have had their outcomes improved by having the intervention.

Dr Rachel Hawes, who is also a doctor on the air ambulance, used her experiences as officer in the Army Reserve – including deployment in Afghanistan – as the basis for the idea for the scheme.

‘Buy yourself time’

She said: “About half of people with traumatic injuries who die, die from bleeding.

“Previously, stopping the bleeding could only be done in hospital, but one of the ways to buy yourself time is to replace the blood they’re losing.”

Volunteers from Cumbria and Northumbria Blood Bikes deliver the blood in cool boxes to the helicopters daily.

Of those receiving transfusion, 83% were injured as a result of road traffic accidents, and the rest by incidents involving crushing and assaults, or heavy falls.

The Major Trauma Centre at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary received 60% of cases, with 30% going to 30% to Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital, and 10% to the Royal Preston Hospital.