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NI air ambulance suspended amid coronavirus effort

Clinical staff that crewed helicopters will be redeployed to hospitals dealing with Covid-19.

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An air ambulance used by the Northern Ireland Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) on the helipad at the Royal Victoria Hospital in West Belfast, where the first test landing of an air ambulance took place on Tuesday.

An air ambulance used by the Northern Ireland Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) on the helipad at the Royal Victoria Hospital in West Belfast, where the first test landing of an air ambulance took place on Tuesday.

An air ambulance used by the Northern Ireland Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) on the helipad at the Royal Victoria Hospital in West Belfast, where the first test landing of an air ambulance took place on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland’s air ambulance service has been suspended to allow crews to focus on the coronavirus outbreak.

The aircraft stopped operating from Friday evening, with clinical staff redeployed to critical care duties elsewhere in the health service.

Air Ambulance NI and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said the suspension would be reviewed on an ongoing basis with all parties committed to recommencing it immediately the staff can be reallocated again.

Michael Bloomfield, NIAS chief executive said: “For the past 32 months the Hems (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) team has provided critical pre-hospital care at trauma incidents across Northern Ireland, saving lives, brains and limbs.

“From today, the Hems service will be suspended.

“This has been a difficult decision to take however having the highly skilled members of this team at the frontline is crucial to support our community in the most appropriate way during the extraordinary challenges we are facing in managing the pandemic.

“I would like to thank every member of the team for the incredible work they do and look forward to seeing them return to that role as soon as possible.”

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Clinicians working on board the air ambulances will be redeployed to the efforts to tackle Covid-19 (Liam McBurney/PA)

Clinicians working on board the air ambulances will be redeployed to the efforts to tackle Covid-19 (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Clinicians working on board the air ambulances will be redeployed to the efforts to tackle Covid-19 (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ray Foran, chairman of the Air Ambulance NI charity, added: “Please be assured that this is a temporary measure.

“We are actively working with our colleagues in NIAS to identify other ways in which we can support patient care as the pandemic develops and other ways in which our aircraft might be deployed in support of the national response.

“The public have been a crucial part of the Air Ambulance NI journey providing vital funding to the charity to ensure daily operations are possible. 

“We at AANI thank everyone for their support and ask you to continue with donations as the team do everything necessary to help out in this crisis.”

PA