A multi-million-pound investment project to acquire two brand new lifesaving helicopters has been launched by the Air Ambulance Service.
The Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA), along with the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) have begun a helicopter replacement project which will come to fruition in early 2021.
Every day of the year, these local air ambulance services help to save more lives at no cost to the NHS. Thanks to the speed and flexibility of the helicopters, within minutes they can be at an incident delivering pre-hospital critical care to patients in order to give them the best chance of survival and recovery.
As part of the charity's aircraft replacement project, its clinical teams took the opportunity to review its current and future helicopter requirements and decided to replace the current iconic yellow and grey helicopters with another two new, state-of-the-art AgustaWestland 109SP (AW109SP), the world's fastest helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) aircraft.
Director of operations for the charity, Richard Clayton, comments: “As part of our scheduled programme we are replacing our two emergency aircraft as they come to the end of their working life. The HEMS aircraft replacement programme has provided an opportunity to ensure that our future air ambulances allow us to continue delivering the highest quality of critical care and enable us to evolve our operational capabilities with future clinical developments.
“Providing leading pre-hospital emergency care to our patients is of the utmost importance and these two new aircraft will continue to enhance our clinical services and facilitate us in extending our flight hours at both bases next year.
“I am also delighted to be continuing our longstanding partnership with Sloane Helicopters Limited to provide our next generation of HEMS aircraft.”
WNAA and DLRAA will continue to operate out of Coventry airport and East Midlands airport and have dedicated critical care paramedics and doctors on board who are able to perform out of hospital surgical procedures from thoracotomies and caesareans to amputations by the roadside.
Critical care paramedic for DLRAA, Rich Irwin explains: “The new AW109SP aircraft have an integral quick start-up time, which is crucial to reaching our patients as quickly as possible and is well suited to our region with large urban areas requiring smaller landing site capabilities, along with great endurance and speed for the more rural areas. They will have a customised medical interior, ergonomically designed to provide the service with better access to vital functions and flexibility to carry additional medical equipment.”
The 24/7 lifesaving service reaches its 40,000 mission milestone this spring and relies on generous donations to make these missions happen. It needs the continued support of all its local communities to help support this helicopter replacement project.
Former Derbyshire patient Peter Corbett, who nearly died in a sporting accident at Buxton Raceway, highlights just how vital these helicopters are: “The air ambulance saved my life. If I'd been taken to hospital by road I could have been killed if there was a sudden jolt that affected one of the fractures in my neck. Also, I was losing a lot of blood and the local A&E didn't have a blood bank.”