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Air ambulance named after tragic flying doctor a step closer to lift off

Mixed emotions for campaigning medic's family after 'Delta 7' announcement

By Victoria O'Hara

The mother of Dr John Hinds has described moves to name Northern Ireland's air ambulance in his memory after campaigning tirelessly to launch the service as "fantastic".

The announcement ,which was made on what would be Dr Hinds' 36th birthday, revealed that the ambulance would be based at Belfast International Airport.

Known as one of the "flying doctors" of Irish motorcycle sport, Dr Hinds championed the creation of a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) to help speed up the treatment of seriously ill people.

The 35-year-old from Co Down died in a motorcycle crash while providing volunteer medical cover at the Skerries 100 race in Dublin last July.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton yesterday made the announcement at Craigavon Area Hospital where Dr Hinds worked. The helicopter and its crew of paramedics will land at the trauma department at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. The aircraft will also bear the call sign "Delta 7", which was used by Dr Hinds.

Speaking at the event the late medic's partner Dr Janet Acheson said it was a day of "mixed emotions" for both the Hinds and Acheson family.

"This is the start - this is where the work begins," she said. "Hopefully it will not take too long to literally "lift off", but it is better to get it right than rush into a second class service. It takes time to build the right team and the right structure."

"John always saw a patient at the centre of everything and we must not lose sight of that. That will be achieved through a properly financed, structured and staffed first class HEMS service - one that the people of Northern Ireland deserve and can be proud of.

"This is the last part of the United Kingdom to get a HEMS. We know it will save lives and in the long run it will also be cost effective."

The Chancellor, George Osborne, committed £4m to the service in his budget speech last week.

Simon Hamilton said that, in future, part of the cost of the service could be met by charitable contributions. He said the charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland has submitted proposals on how they would build a funding base in the local community for the service.

Dr Hinds' mother Josephine said it was great to have John's family and friends there for the announcement.

"When I heard that they would name it Delta 7 that was just fantastic. That was the best bit of today. It was the best news as we always associated it with him".

His friend and colleague Dr John MacSorley said it was an extraordinary day.

"There was a huge sense of sadness in the world of trauma when we lost such a bright star. But it is a testimony to the people that he inspired that they stepped up to the plate to drive his dream forward. At his funeral I said his call sign was now silent and I'd hoped that at one stage it would be heard over the ambulance airwaves to be cleared to land - that will now happen."

Mr Hamilton said: "We will now develop a service specification for a daylight hours Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, which is physician-led but also supported by paramedics. We will shortly begin the process of procurement and recruitment and begin investing in enabling capital works on the helipad at the Royal Victoria Hospital."

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