Helipad opens at RVH Critical Care Building

18th February 2020
Health Minister, Robin Swann greets Air Ambulance staff on the helipad

The final phase of a fully operational Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for Northern Ireland has been completed with the opening of the helipad at the Royal Victoria Hospital. The first test landing took place at 08:30 on Tuesday 18 February.

Patients will be taken by the HEMS directly to the helipad on the Critical Care Building on the RVH site. Patients were previously taken to the helicopter landing site at Musgrave Park Hospital before being transferred to RVH by ambulance.

The direct landing site will reduce patient travelling time by approximately 25 minutes. Once the patient is ready to be transferred from the air ambulance, he/she can be in the Emergency Department in just over two minutes.

The HEMS service has attended more than 1,300 calls since its inception in 2017. It is delivered in partnership by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and the charity, Air Ambulance Northern Ireland.

Following the first test landing, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “This is a momentous day for patients in Northern Ireland and it has been a privilege to witness the first test flight landing of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) this morning. HEMS greatly benefits people with life-changing injuries, whose lives are at risk following significant trauma, by bringing skilled clinicians to the scene to deliver advanced critical care and rapidly transporting the patient to the regional trauma centre for ongoing emergency care.

“My Department continues to provide significant recurrent funding of approximately £1 million each year to enable the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service to cover the medical aspects of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, including staff, training and equipment. I am committed to the partnership-funding relationship with Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, who raise charity funds, including public donations, to sustain the aviation side.”

Dr Cathy Jack, Chief Executive of Belfast Trust, highlighted the benefit to patients of a fully operational helipad close to the Emergency Department: “We are absolutely delighted that air ambulance test flights have now begun at the Royal Victoria Hospital and once the helipad is fully operational, it will help ensure we can work faster to save lives.

“Air Ambulance NI and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service play a key role in the treatment of critically ill patients. Every minute saved in the transfer of a patient maximises their chance of a successful recovery and having a helipad close to the Emergency Department (ED) at the Royal Victoria Hospital – where we have skilled teams ready to receive them – means the outcomes for these patients improve.

“This partnership working has really made a difference for these trauma patients most in need and bringing the helicopter closer to the regional trauma centre optimises this even further.”

NIAS Chief Executive, Michael Bloomfield, welcomed the opening of the helipad saying: “The commissioning of the new helipad represents another step forward in trauma care for the population of Northern Ireland. The HEMS service has undertaken more than 1,300 calls over the past two and a half years, with many seriously injured patients receiving advanced on-scene care from our medical team before being transferred directly to Belfast for specialist treatment.

“By landing on this pad, we will be able to further reduce the journey time for these patents by around 25 minutes by avoiding the need for a secondary transfer by road ambulance. I commend the work of all involved in this project, which will undoubtedly save lives.”

Ray Foran, Chairperson of Air Ambulance Northern Ireland – the charity responsible for fundraising the £2million required annually to sustain the service – also welcomed this latest phase in the air ambulance journey: “We are delighted to have achieved this milestone and acknowledge the success of partnership working and thanks to all involved. Air Ambulance patients are brought to the most relevant hospital for their injuries and for many this is the Royal Victoria Hospital as the main trauma centre for the region. Time is of critical importance for any trauma patient, therefore accessing the Royal via the helipad is very much welcomed.”