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Health Minister commits to Air Ambulance for Northern Ireland

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Health Minister Simon Hamilton has given his commitment to establishing a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) as an integral part of the Trauma Network for Northern Ireland.

The Minister said: “I believe that the time is right to transform our major trauma services with the development of the new Critical Care Building at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the supportive public debate on the need for a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service providing the opportunity for this.

“I am therefore announcing today my commitment to further strengthen our existing high quality trauma services by enabling clinicians to take this service to the next level. This commitment involves the establishment of the Northern Ireland Trauma Network, with recurrent investment of £211,000 to operate the Network, and plans to move forward with a HEMS as a key component of the network.

“The Regional Network will further develop the Royal Victoria Hospital as the centre of Northern Ireland’s trauma service working within a strong network across the Province. Speed of patient transport to the specialist centre is a key requirement for an effective trauma network and I want to also take this to the next level by announcing today my commitment to the establishment of a Northern Ireland HEMS as a key component of the Trauma Network.

“The exact HEMS model will be determined following the outcome of a public consultation by my Department on key issues related to the development of the HEMS. The key issues include: service configuration; target patient groups; home base location; and funding models. I will launch the public consultation document later this month and would ask everyone with an interest in HEMS to respond with their views.

“The estimated cost for a HEMS is £2.38million for initial infrastructure and £1.8million annual recurrent operating costs. Given the difficult financial climate for the health service with many competing priorities for funding we will need to establish if it is possible to secure a robust and recurrent charitable funding contribution for this service. I therefore welcome the recent approaches from potential charitable sources who potentially could raise funds and provide other support.

“I believe that my announcements today hold the prospect of implementing the vision for major trauma services which the late Dr John Hinds, and his colleagues, have highlighted. I want to pay tribute to all of our trauma clinicians, nurses, paramedics and support staff for the exemplary service that they provide in striving to save lives. My mission is to support and enable them to continue their sterling work and I look forward to the delivery of these enhanced services in the months ahead.”

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