Children’s Wales Air Ambulance relocates to Cardiff

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity has permanently relocated its paediatric and neonatal operation to a new base in Cardiff. Children’s Wales Air Ambulance, a specialist division within the charity, is dedicated to transferring vulnerable babies and children to hospitals across Wales and further afield.

The HEMS service said the new operation in the Welsh capital is ‘the most advanced air ambulance service for paediatric and neonatal transfers in the UK’ and features a ‘pioneering’ flight incubator system. The charity also said it boasts Britain’s only dedicated helicopter transfer practitioners (HTPs).

HTPs Dewi Thomas, Jez James, Steffan Simpson and Andrew Morris will be stationed alongside four pilots at Cardiff Heliport, on standby to help move patients between hospitals when they need specialist care. The crews come from nursing and paramedic backgrounds and have undergone intensive air ambulance training over the past two months, said the charity. They work closely with paediatric services including the Wales & West Acute Transport for Children Service (WATCh) and the North West & North Wales Paediatric Transport Service (NWTS). They also work with Cymru inter-Hospital Acute Neonatal Transport Service (CHANTS), the neonatal transfer team that helped to design Wales Air Ambulance’s flight incubator.

Operations manager Mark Winter said: “Moving permanently to our new base in Cardiff is a huge step in developing our Children’s Wales Air Ambulance division. We are now much closer to the Children’s Hospital for Wales and we have dedicated space and facilities for this very unique operation that we run. We can fly new-born babies and children to any centre in Wales and beyond, including Great Ormond Street [in London] and Alder Hey [in Liverpool]. This can make a vital difference to a poorly child who needs treatment or surgery, saving hours if they had gone by road. It also means the very specialist doctors and nurses we work with in hospitals are back in their wards and helping other children much faster.” Winter explained that over the past 12 months, the charity has flown more than 40 children between hospitals.

The Children’s Wales Air Ambulance aircraft is used primarily to transfer children and babies, but also has the capacity to transfer adults who need care in another hospital. Wales Air Ambulance also operates three HEMS (helicopter emergency medical service) aircraft across Wales from its bases in Caernarfon, Welshpool and Llanelli.

Wales Air Ambulance CEO Angela Hughes said: “We are really excited to move into our new home in the Welsh capital. It has been the culmination of 18 months’ hard work behind the scenes, which has only been possible thanks to the kindness and generosity of everyone who has donated, volunteered or played our Lifesaving Lottery. This new airbase and our children’s helicopter is funded solely by this incredible support.”

Helicopter transfer practitioner Andrew Morris said: “Working onboard the Children’s Wales Air Ambulance is nothing short of a privilege. We have an amazing team based here in Cardiff who are on standby to help some of Wales’ most vulnerable patients. No two days are the same on board the transfer helicopter. I’m honoured to do this job.”

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