Norsk Luftambulanse: model success

 Photo: Tromsø University Hospital A doctor monitors a patient onboard a helicopter.

Photo: Tromsø University Hospital
A doctor monitors a patient onboard a helicopter.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Norsk Luftambulanse (Norwegian Air Ambulance) is a helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) that was founded in 1977 and has grown to be one of the largest of its sort in Europe. It now has more than 700,000 members and is internationally recognized for its research in on-site pre-hospital emergency care. That success story is more than a business case. It rests on the concepts of two models: the Nordic Model of universal health care and the Franco-German Model of Emergency Medical Service (EMS).

Under the Nordic Model of health care, emergency medical services are provided by a mix of public sector and private sector organizations under public health control. Air ambulance services are organized in Luftambulansetjenesten (The National Air Ambulance Service), a state-owned enterprise (SOE) under the panoply of the four Regional Health Authorities. The National Air Ambulance Service owns and operates the physical facilities on the ground and operates flight services provided by private-sector companies. The Regional Health Authorities provide the doctors and nurses for the medical services.

The Franco-German Model of Emergency Medical Service is based on taking the doctor to the patient, as in a first-response helicopter. It is widely implemented in Europe, perhaps most famously in the French SAMU, the acronym for Service d’aide Médicale Urgente, the equivalent of the MICU, the acronym for “Mobile Intensive Care Unit” in English. It is one of two models of EMS; the other is the Anglo-American Model, which is based on taking patients to doctors. The popular terms for the two models are “stay and stabilize” for the Franco-German Model and “scoop and run” for the Anglo-American Model.

Norsk Luftambulanse now operates the helicopter services at nine of the 12 EMS helicopter bases in Norway, and from mid 2018, will operate all 12 bases. It also operates three EMS helicopter bases in Denmark. It is owned by a non-profit foundation of the same name, an arrangement that permits altruistic pursuits, such as its on-site pre-hospital emergency care research program that at this writing supports the dissertation work of 18 doctoral candidates. At the everyday level, it supports the Nødplakat (Emergency Poster), a free online service that puts a downloadable geolocator map with EMS procedure instructions at the disposal of anyone anywhere in the country, each with positional coordinates to give when calling the 113 Emergency Medical Services telephone number.

Further reading:
• Norsk Luftambulanse (Norwegian with some English), link:

• “Norway-USA in contrast: Different approaches to healthcare costs,” The Norwegian American, July 1, 2016, link:

• Luftambulansetjenesten (National Air Ambulance Services), link:

• “Models of international Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Systems,” by Sultan Al-Shaqsi, Oman Medical Journal, Published online October 2010, Abstract link:

• “Anglo-American vs. Franco-German emergency medical services system,” by Wolfgang F. Dick, Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, March 2003, Published online June 2012, Abstract link:

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 23, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

The Norwegian American

Published since May 17, 1889 PO Box 30863 Seattle WA 98113 Tel: (206) 784-4617 • Email:

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