Air ambulance touches down at new hospital

The Great North Air Ambulance landing at the Northumbria specialist hospital.

The Great North Air Ambulance landing at the Northumbria specialist hospital.

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The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has landed at The Northumbria hospital at Cramlington as part of a training exercise.

After arriving at the hospital’s fully-operational helipad, the crew was given a tour of the state-of-the-art emergency department where seriously ill and injured patients from across Northumberland and North Tyneside are assessed, diagnosed and treated by specialists much quicker than ever before.

The exercise was arranged as part of a continuous programme of support to emergency crews so that, should GNAAS need to arrive with a casualty, they are familiar with the layout and know exactly where they need to go.

The helipad at the new Northumbria hospital is located very close to the ambulance entrance of the hospital so that patients can be transferred quickly into the main emergency department hub.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has all the appropriate protocols and procedures in place with air traffic control at Newcastle Airport for helicopters to land at the new Northumbria hospital should this be necessary, however this is not expected to happen frequently.

Since April 2014 there have only been three landings at Wansbeck General Hospital by GNAAS, prior to the new Northumbria hospital opening.

This is because most patients in need of air ambulance support have multiple serious injuries and are taken straight to the region’s two major trauma centres in Newcastle and Middlesbrough and this will continue to be the case.

Previously, RAF search and rescue helicopters used to land at Wansbeck General Hospital, largely bringing in coastal rescues, however from October 2015 sea kings are no longer based at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland and this activity has ceased.

Dr James McFetrich, emergency medicine consultant at The Northumbria hospital, showed the GNAAS crew around the emergency department.

He said: “It was excellent to be able to show our air ambulance colleagues the facilities we have here at The Northumbria hospital.

“The fact that we have not yet received any patients from GNAAS is certainly not unusual and given the small number of times we’ve had landings in the past, we were never expecting this to be a high number as most patients will, quite rightly, go straight to a major trauma centre.

“Nevertheless, we know there will be occasions in the future when we do need to welcome GNAAS here and our helipad has been purposely located to ensure the effective flow of patients into the emergency department. Today’s training exercise has been a very useful test run for when we do receive a patient by helicopter.”

Dr Mike Davison, air crew doctor with GNAAS and consultant anaesthetist, said: “Training exercises are a vital part of our work in order for our crews to be up-to-speed with the layout and protocols of new sites so, when the time comes, they know exactly where everything is and they can effectively hand over a patient as quickly as possible.

“We were really impressed with the new hospital and the way that high quality patient care has been at the forefront of the design.”

The Northumbria hospital is the first purpose-built hospital of its kind to have emergency medicine consultants on site 24/7 and specialist consultants in a broad range of conditions also working seven days a week.

For patients who are seriously ill or injured, this means they have much quicker access to specialist care, which is helping to save more lives and maximising chances of survival and a good recovery.

For those residents with less serious conditions, such as a minor fracture or broken bone, urgent care continues to be provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week at walk-in services at Hexham, Wansbeck and North Tyneside general hospitals.

Northumbria Healthcare is urging residents to use NHS services wisely this winter and leave the Northumbria hospital for serious emergencies only.