How we bring critically ill children to GOSH: then and now

17 Feb 2022, 3 p.m.

Since opening our doors in 1852, we’ve experienced many breakthroughs in research, technology, and our practices. 

One part of our hospital that has evolved significantly over the years is our transport team, and more specifically, the technology that enables us to transfer critically ill children and young people to GOSH. 

The Gastro-Enteritis Flying Squad

A black and white photo captures the Flying Squad ambulance. There are two nurses and one doctor. The van reads 'Hospital for Sick Children'

In 1948, a GOSH junior doctor named John Black established an innovative project for the time. Black, his assistant and two specialist nurses, specifically adapted an ambulance for children’s care.

Collectively known as the ‘Gastro-enteritis Flying Squad’, the team would cover a 30-mile radius around London to treat urgent cases on site or bring them to GOSH if necessary. John Black went on to be an eminent consultant paediatrician at Glassgow and Sheffield hospitals.

How we transfer critically ill children to GOSH today

The CATs Retrieval team stand in front of three ambulances.

Today, our flying squad goes by the name of CATS Retrieval. They are the Children's Acute Transport Service, a Paediatric intensive care transport team.

“I wish we had flying in our title!” Cathy, a member of today’s team says. “It’s amazing to think that GOSH had a transport team 70 years ago, and to see how far we’ve come.”

“Technology has advanced significantly over the years,” explains Cathy, “we can now provide intensive care to critically ill children and young people while on the move. We can track all our vehicles on a live map.”

For children and young people, transferring from one hospital to another can be a daunting time. To help provide comfort, the CATS team gift every child they help move a ‘Cassie the Cat’ soft toy. “Families love this, because for new-born babies, it can be the first toy they’ve ever had.”

Three orange soft toys in the shape of a cat.

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