Life-saving air ambulances will carry blood supplies on board for the first time in what is being hailed as a significant improvement for patient care by bosses.

From this week Essex and Herts Air Ambulance choppers and rapid response vehicles will carry their own supplies and will be able to give pre-hospital transfusions at the scene of incidents.

The service says early transfusion will reduce the time lost in transit to hospital and the blood will replace the current saline solution, which doesn’t carry oxygen or help with clotting of injuries.

Clinical director Stuart Elms said: “This exciting new venture for Essex and Herts Air Ambulance has been many months in preparation and will make a significant difference to the most critically injured patients in our region.

“We have been working closely with our partners at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and our colleagues from the Essex Voluntary Blood Service (EVBS) to ensure a safe, continuous temperature-controlled supply of these vital products with a wish for zero waste.

“Traditionally patients have had blood lost replaced with saline which has many limitations when what they need is the oxygen-carrying capability and clotting factors of blood products.

“Based on our current caseload we anticipate that we will need to provide blood products around once a week.”

Type O Negative red blood cells will be supplied daily from the Harlow hospital and delivered to the charity’s Earls Colne and North Weald airbases by riders from EVBS.

The blood will be delivered and stored in special cool boxes before being heated up using a special piece of equipment.

Nore Light Masonic Lodge donated £3,000 to pay for the blood-warming device as well as the money needed to buy four special cool bags.