The Helicopter Emergency Landing Pads (HELP) Appeal is partnering with two National Health Service (NHS) trusts to develop new rooftop helipads at hospitals in London and Bristol, UK. The HELP Appeal was established by the County Air Ambulance charity to help raise funds to develop hospital helipad facilities across England.
The Appeal has awarded a £1-million grant to St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, representing a quarter of the estimated cost of a new helipad to be built on the roof of St George’s Hospital in Tooting, southwest London. Completion is expected in summer 2013.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, voiced his support for the project: “This is a fantastic project, which will help save the lives of many Londoners and will improve our healthcare service. St George’s Hospital will be only the second hospital in the capital with a helipad and the first one south of the Thames [River], which is why it is so significant.”
Currently, air ambulances often fly over the hospital, which is a major trauma centre, taking patients to a more distant hospital due to the lack of a helipad at St George’s.
Heather Jarman, clinical director for major trauma at St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We are at a pivotal point in the development of trauma care systems. With the emergence of major trauma centres, centralisation of services and rapid transfers, patients are getting the specialist care they need, quicker than ever before. Helicopters are essential to the success of these systems … A helipad at the hospital providing express access to [the accident and emergency department] will save lives and give these patients a much better chance of a good recovery from their injuries.”
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) has received £500,000 from the Appeal towards a helipad to be built as part of the redevelopment of Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) and the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRHC). The helipad is expected to open in 2014.
Professor Jonathan Benger, consultant in emergency medicine at UH Bristol, commented: “The funding for a new helipad at the hospital could not have come at a better time, as we are currently redeveloping the BRI and building an extension to the children’s hospital to accommodate [children’s burns and neuroscience] services when those transfer from Frenchay Hospital in 2014. A helipad at the Trust providing quick access to our adult and children’s emergency departments and specialist emergency services will save lives and give our patients, many of whom are children, a much better chance of survival and recovery.”
Currently, patients arriving by air ambulance must be transferred some distance by ground ambulance from a safe landing site such as the Clifton Downs park.
The HELP Appeal has previously helped finance onsite helipads at Oswestry Spinal Injuries, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Southampton General Hospital.
Robert Bertram, charity director at County Air Ambulance Trust, explained: “There is a significant lack of hospital helipads across the country, and for this reason we are currently in discussions with roughly 20 hospitals about how we can help fund their helipad needs.”
Images: Boris Johnson, Mayor of London / Artist’s impression of the St George’s Hospital helipad (courtesy HELP Appeal)