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About Us


Our Mission Statement

To contract, fund and promote a professional emergency air ambulance operation.


When only an Intensive Care team can save lives…

The natural beauty to be found in our part of the world seems endless, matched only by the distances in which we travel and the isolation that comes with it.  

For a critically ill patient, in need of medical attention, getting “from A to B” may well be the toughest, loneliest journey they will make in life.

An air ambulance service is a vital service for inter-hospital transfers. It’s those vital minutes in between medical destinations where the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service (NZFDS) is able to make a practical and tangible difference.

When time is of the essence and distances are far, an air ambulance service surpasses those on the ground. A flying intensive care unit of sorts, NZFDS aircraft are equipped with professional ICU medical staff and specialist equipment, so that patients can receive help immediately and experience a seamless level of care throughout the journey.

Like the many health care providers NZFDS works with throughout New Zealand, whatever journey the patient is on, NZFDS is committed to protecting their health and well-being - to providing exceptional standards of care while being transferred from one hospital for specialist care to another.

Tragic beginnings

It was a rough time when NZFDS was first introduced to the Canterbury West Coast community. Established in 1995, the first mission was to transfer medical teams from Christchurch to Greymouth to assist staff at Grey Base Hospital following the Cave Creek Disaster.

This tragic event is entrenched in the hearts and minds of our nation. When a viewing platform failed in a remote part of the West Coast, it cost thirteen outdoor recreation students and a DOC worker their lives.  It was a dark day for the local community and the whole of New Zealand. These young lives lost were a part of families from Whangarei in the north to Greymouth in the south.

Read more about the history of the NZFDS - Click Here


A service that is second to none

Today, the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service is a significant operation.

From critical-care burns victims, spinal injury patients, neonatal transfers or accident trauma victims who need intensive care services to routine elective surgery transfers, organ delivery, blood or equipment supply, NZFDS offers a fast, efficient and effective transfer facility with specialised intensive care service minute after minute, kilometre after kilometre.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, NZFDS provides critical-care patient transfer services between specialist metropolitan hospital facilities and outlying areas.

With a fleet of three twin-engine aircraft, equipped and capable of delivering the highest standards of care, NZFDS fulfills a role that simply cannot be met by the other emergency services in our community.

Three times faster than our rescue helicopters and capable of travelling greater distances without refuelling, each aircraft’s performance in long-distance, time-critical situations is second to none. When it comes to critical patient care NZFDS can deliver in flight, on route, from bed to bed intensive care treatment that only an air ambulance service can provide.

Capable of offering ‘Level 1’ service - NZFDS fly Christchurch Hospital’s team of Intensive Care Doctors and nurses, plus specialised equipment (incubators, ventilators etc) anywhere in New Zealand any time, in most weather conditions, day or night.

Based in Christchurch, NZFDS is an integral part of our community, watching over half a million lives from the Canterbury, West Coast and Nelson/Marlborough regions (covering the largest geographical area in New Zealand).

But the service impacts the lives of other Kiwis greater distances away as well.

Christchurch is home to the spinal centre for New Zealand. NZFDS transports patients from around the country who require specialist spinal care at the Burwood Hospital facility.

That’s not all. NZFDS aircraft are also called on as a back up to other service operators when their aircraft are out for maintenance or already on a transfer.

Recognised as a leader in intensive in-flight care, NZFDS is called on far from home: as far north as Auckland, south as Invercargill, east as the Chatham Islands, and west as Norfolk Island.

As with its first mission, the West Coast remains one of the service’s most frequent destinations. A speedy 30 minute flight from Christchurch to Greymouth, NZFDS is frequently used for paediatric and obstetric missions: protecting the lives of our young people and children; our future generations.

The team

There are a total of 10 experienced nurses and two casual nurses who currently work in the Christchurch Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) who are scheduled on a 24 hour roster as part of the Air Ambulance Retrieval Team. When required, a senior doctor can be drawn from the ICU to provide timely emergency care. The service also takes speciality staff on board such as paediatric doctors or midwives as required.

An Intensive Care Consultant oversees all transfers and provides clinical support 24/7.

St John paramedics are also an important part of the team when a mission integrates with the rescue helicopters - and certainly not to be forgotten are the highly experienced nine fixed-wing pilots who require specialised training to fly air ambulances. Together, this extended network of professionals ensures that the level of care afforded to the patient throughout the transfer is never compromised.


A critical investment for our communities

As with all New Zealand emergency services it takes huge investment, resources and funding to keep the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service going while delivering first-class patient care. It’s a critical service that our communities need. NZFDS wouldn’t exist without the life-saving donations from passionate supporters.


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