Northern Ireland's health minister commits to air ambulance service
Calls for an air ambulance gathered momentum following the tragic death of the late Dr John Hinds
Thousands of you backed calls to fulfill the late Dr John Hind's vision of an air ambulance for Northern Ireland - today the health minister has given his commitment to establishing the service.
Calls for an air ambulance gathered momentum following the tragic death of the late Dr John Hinds.
And today Northern Ireland is one step closer to getting its own air ambulance as the health minister announced his commitment to bringing it about.
The hugely popular doctor was fatally injured while providing medical cover at a Skerries 100 practice session on July 3.
A petition with more than 70,000 signatures backing the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (Hems) - which the late Dr John Hinds had passionately called for before his death - was set to be handed over next Tuesday.
And now, those calls have been answered.
The DUP MLA said his announcements "hold the prospect of implementing the vision for major trauma services which the late Dr John Hinds, and his colleagues, have highlighted".
Mr Hamilton 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."
However, as part of his announcement Mr Hamilton highlighted the financial constraints and difficulties currently facing his department and Stormont.
Mr Hamilton stated the estimated cost for a HEMS is £2.38million for initial infrastructure and £1.8million annual recurrent operating costs.
He said given the current financial climate "we will need to establish if it is possible to secure a robust and recurrent charitable funding contribution for this service".
Pleased to announce I have committed to establishing an air ambulance service for NI as part of major trauma network http://t.co/de9z35H2UF— Simon Hamilton (@SimonHamilton) September 3, 2015
He said: "I therefore welcome the recent approaches from potential charitable sources who potentially could raise funds and provide other support."
Northern Ireland's health department will now embark on a public consultation on key issues related to the development of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service which will be launched later this month.
Mr Hamilton said speed of patient transport is a "key requirement for an effective trauma network".
He said: "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. "
He added: "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.”