Surrey air ambulance service becomes first in the country to go round the clock

Life-saving charity Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance has become the first air ambulance in the country to launch a 24-hour Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS).

The launch at Redhill Aerodrome last month followed three years of research and preparatory work.

Until recently, and unlike the rest of Europe, the service could only fly by daylight and so traditionally operated between 7am and 7pm, with two specialised medical teams deploying in two helicopters from the Marden base in Kent and Redhill in Surrey, as well as in emergency response cars after dark. The teams attended about 1,500 missions and treated about 1,000 patients each year. But the charity said there has long been a clear indication of patient need by night, and it undertook its own prospective and retrospective audit of patient cases.

It said this identified that there were between 400 and 500 patients per year in the 3,500 square miles that is Kent, Surrey and Sussex, who would benefit from night HEMS, and also, most significantly, that about half of these cases were between the hours of 11pm and 5am. A statement from the charity said: “It is not possible to attend so many patients dispersed across such a large area by car, and so, a centrally-located helicopter and medical team was clearly needed. “Following a change in Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations in 2012, the charity replaced one of its older MD902 helicopters with a night-capable MD902, which now operates from Redhill Aerodrome throughout the night.”

The statement continued: “Because of the region’s size, complexities, and the presence of two major and many other minor airports, the decision was made to fly with two pilots rather than a traditional single pilot operation, to ensure the safest and most reliable service for patients and crew alike.”

Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust chairman Anthony Monteuuis, said: “This is a hugely expensive step and we have taken the greatest care to devise a service that is as robust and as safe as possible for everyone flying in the helicopter, whether it’s the patients or crew.”

He said: “The people of Kent, Surrey and Sussex are better served from this moment forward than they have been in the past.”

Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance chief executive Adrian Bell, said: “Our focus is on getting our highly-skilled teams with their time-critical interventions, to the patient as quickly and safely as possible, not only to save life but also to improve the quality of survival.”

He said: “None of what we do would be possible without the support of the public. “There are many patients alive and well today, living with their families and amongst their friends, who would not be there without the public’s generous support, and I would like to thank them on behalf of the charity, and all the patients we attend and treat, for their kindness and thoughtfulness.”

The Air Ambulance service in Kent, Surrey and Sussex costs around £5 million annually to stay airborne. Receiving no funding from the National Lottery, the charity relies almost entirely upon the generosity of the public to support the two helicopters based at Marden and Redhill.

People wanting to make a donation should call 01622 833833 or visit: www.kssairambulance.org.uk

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