Air ambulance finally to get off the ground with £4.5m funding
A dedicated air ambulance service could be up and running in Northern Ireland by September after the Chancellor committed £4.5m of funding to the project.
The announcement was made as George Osborne delivered his eighth budget yesterday.
The funding comes out of fines from banks caught up in the Libor scandal, in which inter-bank lending rates were rigged.
Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK that does not have such a service.
It is thought the air ambulance will be based on the current Welsh model, which has three helicopters and is run by a charity but staffed by the NHS.
While it is not known where the helicopter will be based, First Minister Arlene Foster has previously supported establishing a headquarters at St Angelo Airport in Enniskillen.
Ian Crowe, chairman of Air Ambulance NI, said the group was set to meet with Health Minister Simon Hamilton to discuss the finer details of the service.
He added that the target date to have the air ambulance running was September 1.
"Now that this is concrete, our fundraising will begin to sustain the service," Mr Crowe explained. "We are meeting the Health Minister next week to move forward with this plan.
"It's fantastic news, and I got a text from Arlene Foster congratulating us on the funding.
"The £4.5m involves two years of up-front funding and then £1m of match funding after the second year, so we have to raise £1m in a year, which I hope we will do."