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O’Neill announces charity partner for Air Ambulance Service

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Health Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced Air Ambulance NI (AANI) as the charity partner for the north of Ireland’s first Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS).

AANI responded to the Department’s consultation in January 2016, setting out their proposals for building a sustainable funding base in the local community. The charity has been working closely with the Department and the Ambulance Service since then to develop a partnership model in line with best practice HEMS operations in other countries.

Announcing the partnership, the Minister said: “AANI will be the charity partner of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service. Today’s announcement moves us one step closer to the first HEMS becoming operational in the north of Ireland.

“The charity will work in partnership with the Ambulance Service to provide the aviation side of the service and fund the non-medical costs of HEMS. The medical staff and equipment will be provided and funded by Health and Social Care services.”

Speaking about the medical model for staffing the HEMS, the Minister said:  “Ultimately there will be a doctor and paramedic on board the aircraft to administer emergency medical services, in line with the outcome of our recent consultation.

“I want to stress that the safety of patients across the system remains my primary focus in overseeing the smooth implementation of this new service. The staffing model requires careful planning and for this reason I have listened to representatives from the clinical community, and will be advised by my Chief Medical Officer on the most clinically appropriate means for delivering this. I will therefore make a further decision about the initial operating model, and timeframe for implementing it, in the weeks ahead.”

In March 2016, AANI were successful in applying to the Chancellor’s banking fines fund, and were awarded £3.5million to establish and support the HEMS service in the first 22 months of operation, and pledged a further £1million in matched funding thereafter.

Michelle O’Neill welcomed the funding development as a significant boost to the implementation of HEMS: “I want to congratulate the Trustees for their work to date, particularly in securing significant funding to help launch and maintain the service in its early years.

“I look forward to working with the charity as they engage further with the community to build a sustainable funding base for HEMS in the years ahead. We have seen the levels of support for HEMS that exist in our local community and I wish AANI every success in developing that foundation further.”

The partnership will be formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between AANI and the Ambulance Service in the coming weeks.

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