Air ambulance service to be operational within three months at Maze/Long Kesh site

An air ambulance service for Northern Ireland is expected to be operational within three months. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye/Air Ambulance Northern Ireland/PA Wire
John Monaghan

AN air ambulance service for Northern Ireland is to be operational within three months.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill made the announcement in a tweet yesterday, and also confirmed that the main helicopter would be based at the Maze/Long Kesh site, with a second helicopter to be kept on stand-by at St Angelo Airport in Enniskillen.

Ms O'Neill tweeted: "Delighted to announce Doctor led HEMS-Air Ambulance service will go ahead. It will be based in MLK and hopes to be operational in 10-12 weeks.

"Credit to all those who have worked tirelessly for HEMS-Air Ambulance service in the north of Ireland, including the late Dr John Hinds."

The air ambulance will be doctor-led, and will operate seven days a week for up to 12 hours daily during daylight hours.

The charity partner for the service is Air Ambulance NI (AANI), which estimates that up to 50 lives may be saved per year.

The annual bill for the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) is expected to be around £2 million, and will be split between AANI, which will aim to cover running costs through fundraising, and the Department of Health, which will provide and fund medical staff and equipment.

Ian Crowe, the chairman of AANI, said: "AANI is continuing to work with our partners in Health and Social Care and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, and we expect to commence this lifesaving service within the coming months.

"Annual running costs for the service will be £2m and we are relying on the generosity of local people to help us raise these funds."

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