Healthcare news

Charity partner for north's air ambulance service confirmed

The Air Ambulance NI charity has been confirmed as the partner for the north's first air ambulance service. Picture from Facebook
John Monaghan

THE charity partner for the north's first air ambulance service has been confirmed.

As had been widely expected, Air Ambulance NI has been announced as the partner for the first ever HEMS operation.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said that the exact terms of the partnership will be finalised in a memorandum of understanding to be signed between the Ambulance Service and Air Ambulance NI in coming weeks.

She said: "The charity will work in partnership with the Ambulance Service to provide the aviation side of the service and fund the non-medical costs of HEMS.

"The medical staff and equipment will be provided and funded by Health and Social Care services."

"Ultimately there will be a doctor and paramedic on board the aircraft to administer emergency medical services, in line with the outcome of our recent consultation," added Ms O'Neill.

The minister said she had not yet decided on the time frame and operating model for the new service.

She said: "The staffing model requires careful planning and for this reason I have listened to representatives from the clinical community, and will be advised by my Chief Medical Officer on the most clinically appropriate means for delivering this.

"I will therefore make a further decision about the initial operating model, and timeframe for implementing it, in the weeks ahead."

Funding to establish an air ambulance service for the north was secured following the death of Dr John Hinds, a major campaigner on the issue, and the plans were confirmed by former health minister Simon Hamilton earlier this year.

In his budget in March, former Chancellor George Osborne announced that £4.5 million, arising from banking fines, would be used to help establish the service - which is expected to cost millions in annual running costs - and later said that the Air Ambulance NI charity would be the "ultimate recipient of the funding".

Earlier this year there was criticism from a former colleague of Dr Hinds after the charity fundraised and reportedly operated flights at the North West 200 despite confirmation about the charity partner not having been made.

The charity said at the time: "We are very pleased that the NW 200 organisers appointed AANI as their nominated charity for the next three years. As part of this arrangement we provided a helicopter and crew to the NW 200 Medical Team for the duration of the event."

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