Aberdeen earmarked for Scotland's next helicopter air ambulance

Aberdeen has been unveiled as the location for a promised new helicopter air ambulance for Scotland.

Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) announced plans to station its second charity with hopes of launching the service by late 2019.

SCAA 's new Aberdeen-based aircraft - callsign Helimed 79 - will join its stablemate Helimed 76 already operating out of Perth Airport.

The strengthened SCAA fleet will effectively double the number of helicopter air ambulances operating in Scotland, working alongside the two Government funded helicopters based at Glasgow and Inverness.

This expansion of the airborne emergency pre-hospital care fleet will increase the response capability to time-critical medical and trauma emergencies, retrievals and urgent transfers across the whole of Scotland - also supported by two Government-funded fixed-wing patient transfer aircraft.

The decision to locate its second helicopter at Aberdeen comes after lengthy talks between SCAA and the Scottish Ambulance Service, in consultation with other key stakeholders.

SCAA founding Chairman John Bullough explained that the board unanimously approved Aberdeen as the base for the new aircraft following a recommendation from the Scottish Ambulance Service.

"Aberdeen will house one of Scotland's four Major Trauma Centres in the future Scottish Trauma Network and it makes sense for Helimed 79 to add its considerable capability to that growing hub of emergency medical resources,” said Mr Bullough.

"SCAA is frequently tasked to emergencies in the north east and having an air ambulance based there will optimise the coverage and resilience of the country's entire emergency air response - helping to fulfil one of the Scottish Trauma Network's key objectives of transporting patients to a key trauma centre such as Aberdeen within 45 minutes of serious illness or injury.

"With a second helicopter air ambulance service, SCAA will further positively impact on the outcome for patients - ultimately saving and improving hundreds more lives every year.

"The fact that SCAA is looking to launch a second aircraft after only five years is a testament to the level of support and public engagement that we have received nationally," added Mr Bullough. "SCAA is entirely funded by charitable donations and the people of Scotland have funded each and every one of our nearly 2,000 emergency responses to every corner of the country."

Commenting on today’s announcement, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman said “Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance carries out great work across Scotland, helping to save and improve lives every day. A second SCAA helicopter will make a huge difference.

“It is crucial that we ensure the most severely injured patients have the best chance of a speedy recovery from their injuries.

“Last month I had the honour of opening Scotland’s first Major Trauma Centre in Aberdeen which will treat the most seriously injured patients in the North of Scotland. This second air ambulance will build capacity to support this, significantly contributing to our growing hub of resources in that area.”

Chair of the Scottish Ambulance Service, Tom Steele said “This is wonderful news, not only for Grampian and the North-east, but for the whole of Scotland.

“SCAA has been a very important partner since 2013 when they provided their first helicopter air ambulance, based in Perth. Since then it has flown almost 2000 emergency missions and undoubtedly has saved many lives across Scotland’s rural and remote areas.

“The second SCAA helicopter will be based in Aberdeen and like the Perth helicopter, its deployment will be integrated with our own emergency response air ambulance fleet. This will add very significant capability bringing fast medical care to very unwell patients as well as quick life-saving transport to hospital if required.

“We are very grateful to SCAA for their massive fund-raising effort and to the Scottish public for their generous support.”

SCAA chief executive, David Craig, explained that having unveiled where its second aircraft will be best located to complement the existing helicopter air ambulances, the charity will now focus attention on the infrastructure required to set up a new base.
"SCAA will work with its service partners to determine where exactly that operational airbase should be located in the city area, along with the process of recruiting crew, and begin to establish the station, " he said.

"The charity is currently in talks with existing and potential major donors to help us secure the £6m required to launch and sustain a second helicopter for its first three years," he said, "with a view to going operational as soon as financially viable - hopefully by late 2019."

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