One of Sid Watkins’ most important legacies is the standardisation of medical centres for the F1 championship. These respond to a very strict set of regulations (available publicly on the FIA website).
The medical centre is designed to fill a number of roles:
- it is an obligatory way-station from an on track incident to the receiving hospital.
- it is where “routine” care is provided for F1 personnel during the race weekend
- it is the triage station in the event of a mass casualty incident.
In terms of function (1), this means having the personnel and equipment available for securing the airway under even the most difficult situations, for providing immediate care for life-threatening problems involving ventilation, and for establishing venous access and initial therapy for shock.
Med centres homologated for F1 have the capability of operating on a victim, both in terms of personnel, infrastructure, and equipment. This option has, of course, never been used. It is, as far as I am concerned, very useful to maintain. The regs were changed in order to encourage local Chief Medical Officers to staff their med centres with surgeons and anaesthetists with knowledge of “damage control surgery and resuscitation”. These are essentially the techniques for rapid and effective control of exsanguinating haemorrhage (honed in Iraq and Afghanistan), in order to allow transfer to the next echelon of care for a patient far too unstable for transport.
On the other hand, when injuries are severe but where the medical centre brings no “added value” (severe head trauma when other injuries are absent, ongoing CPR, where highly sophisticated equipment may be necessary), the centre is “visited” very briefly, before expeditious transport to the receiving hospital is started.