THE UK’S only dedicated children’s air ambulance service is set to double in size under £32million plans unveiled today (Tuesday).
The expansion of the national Children’s Air Ambulance will mean it can meet demand for its unique services, ensuring it can help every child in the UK who needs a lifesaving flight.
The country’s only dedicated paediatric helicopter emergency transfer service will tonight sign a deal for two new helicopters. It will be one of the biggest ever investments in air ambulance services in the UK and triple the cover for the service, which currently has one helicopter.
Currently, the service has capacity to fly only 1 in 3 of the estimated 1,000 children and babies each year who need an emergency helicopter transfer from their local hospital to specialist care.
Transfers by helicopter can be up to four times quicker than by road and can mean the difference between life and death for the most seriously ill patients.
At a ceremony tonight at the Italian Embassy, in London, the charity which operates the national Children’s Air Ambulance will formally sign 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 national Children’s Air Ambulance, which receives no government funding, flew its first mission in 2013 and works alongside seven specialist NHS transport teams.
It 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 truly national service that’s available when it’s needed.
“Children and babies don’t just get sick in office hours.
“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.
“And when a child is too sick to travel even by helicopter, then we can fly the specialist team direct to their local hospital.”
The deal is being announced during Air Ambulance Week.
The two new aircraft will be able to carry an incubator, have an extra passenger seat, night flying capability and greater endurance.
The need to expand the service is supported by leading NHS clinicians, including Dr Shelley Riphagen, Lead Consultant at Evelina Children’s Hospital, London.
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, including London, would be a great step forward in ensuring we offer the very best, world-class transfer service to these children and families.”
Dr Steve Hancock, Lead Consultant, Embrace Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service, said: “The prospect of two helicopters – one north and one south – would mean shorter travel times so children get the care they need even more quickly.”
To find out how to help go to www.childrensairambulance.org.uk, or call 08454 130999.