A NATIONAL children’s air ambulance service which provides life-saving care and transportation is set to double in size after £32million plans were unveiled.
The expansion of the national Children’s Air Ambulance will mean it can meet demand for its unique services, ensuring every child in the UK who needs a lifesaving flight can receive one.
A deal for two new helicopters was signed by the country’s only dedicated paediatric helicopter emergency transfer service on Tuesday (September 20).
Transfers by helicopter can be up to four times quicker than by road – often resulting in the difference between life and death for seriously ill patients.
At a ceremony at the Italian Embassy in London, the national Children’s Air Ambulance Charity formally signed a seven-year lease deal for two Anglo-Italian AW169 helicopters.
The new aircraft will come into service in 2017 – providing seven day a week, 19 hours a day coverage from new bases in the north and south of England.
The service currently has one helicopter, which operates out of Coventry Airport in daylight hours – Monday to Friday.
Director of Operations, Richard Clayton, said the two new helicopters will create a national service that’s available when needed.
He added: “The new 169s will be able to fly most days of the year – pretty much round the clock.
“The centralisation of specialist paediatric and neonatal teams over the years means patients can be hundreds of miles from the specialist care they need in an emergency.
“With a truly national Children’s Air Ambulance service, we can be at any hospital in the UK within 25 minutes to transfer the patient to a specialist centre such as Alder Hey in Liverpool or Evelina Children’s Hospital in London.
“When a child is too sick to travel even by helicopter, then we can fly the specialist team direct to their local hospital.”
The new aircraft will carry an incubator, have an extra passenger seat, night flying capability and greater endurance.
Calls to expand the service have been supported by leading NHS clinicians – including Dr Shelley Riphagen, lead consultant at Evelina Children’s Hospital.
She said: “To have a second helicopter and flight team dedicated to moving critically ill children into paediatric intensive care units in the South of the country is a great step forward for children and families.”
Visit www.childrensairambulance.org.uk for further information about the charity and how you can fundraise.