24-hour air ambulance plan

Dr Malcolm Russell with the Air Ambulance
Dr Malcolm Russell with the Air Ambulance

The life-saving air ambulance has launched a 24-hour helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS).

The launch last week follows three years of research and preparatory work. Up until recently, and unlike the rest of Europe, the service could only fly by daylight and so traditionally operated between 7am – 7pm with two specialised medical teams deploying in two helicopters from the Marden base in Kent and Redhill in Surrey, and in emergency response cars after dark.

There has, however, long been a clear indication of patient need by night.

The charity undertook its own prospective and retrospective audit of patient cases which 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.

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.

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 & 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.

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

If you would like to donate to the charity visit the website: www.kssairambulance.org.uk or call 01622 833833.