Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Air Ambulance service to take off in weeks

The Northern Ireland Air Ambulance service will come into operation in weeks, Health Minister Michelle O'Neill has confirmed.

Two air ambulances, providing 24-hour cover across Northern Ireland are to be based at the Maze Long Kesh site, just outside Lisburn.

It's hoped the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) will save up to 50 lives a year.

On Wednesday, as one of her final acts as health minister, Michelle O'Neill announced the service will begin operations in 10 to 12 weeks.

"Credit to all those who have worked tirelessly for HEMS-Air Ambulance service in the north of Ireland, including the late Dr John Hinds," she tweeted.

The late Dr John Hinds - who died in a motorbike crash - was one of the many to campaign for the introduction of the service.

The 35-year-old Tandragee man worked as a consultant anaesthetist at Craigavon Area Hospital and was a leading activist for a regional air ambulance.

After his death in a motorcycle crash while providing volunteer medical cover at the Skerries 100 race in Dublin, his partner Dr Janet Acheson continued his campaigning work.

Dr Hinds was nicknamed the 'flying doctor' of Irish motorcycle racing for the lifesaving emergency support he provided during high speed races such as the North West 200.

Ian Crowe, Chairman of AANI, said:"We’re delighted the minister has approved Northern Ireland’s first HEMS service. The service will bring us into line with other regions in the UK and Ireland, and may save between 18 to 50 lives every year. AANI is continuing to work with our partners in Health and Social Care and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, and we expect to commence this lifesaving service within the coming months.

“The support we’ve received from the public and local businesses has been fantastic, and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you and encourage others to get involved. Annual running costs for the service will be £2m and we are relying on the generosity of local people to help us raise these funds.”

Ray Foran, AANI Trustee, added: “The EC135 Airbus helicopters and pilots will be supplied by Babcock Mission Critical Services, the leading provider of HEMS across the UK. Operating from more than 20 bases Babcock responds to hundreds of emergency calls every week. The medical staff and equipment will be provided and funded by Health and Social Care services.”

The helicopters and pilots will be supplied by Babcock Mission Critical Services, the leading provider of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) across the UK. Operating from more than 20 bases Babcock responds to hundreds of emergency calls every week. The medical staff and equipment will be provided and funded by Health and Social Care services.

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