Charity’s £580,000 helipad appeal takes off at Sheffield hospital

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A major campaign is under way to raise over £580,000 for a new helipad at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.

The appeal - called Saving Time, Saving Lives - has been launched by the Sheffield Hospitals Charity to raise funds to build a new helipad close to the hospital’s A&E department.

Air ambulance pilot Andrew Lister and Dr Stuart Reid at the existing helipad site

Air ambulance pilot Andrew Lister and Dr Stuart Reid at the existing helipad site

A new helipad will mean that patients requiring life-saving treatment can be transferred to the Northern General’s Major Trauma Centre within seconds of landing, saving valuable time.

Currently, air ambulance helicopters have to land on the ‘secondary helipad’ which was built more than 20 years ago, and because of its distance from the MTC, requires a transfer by land ambulance to reach the hospital.

This not only takes time, but also adds complexity and risks additional discomfort for patients.

The helipad is also too small for many modern search and rescue aircraft, has no lighting so cannot be used at night, and is located in a dip close to trees, against official safety guidelines.

Miner Richard Hodgkinson, aged 52, was taken to the major trauma centre by air ambulance after suffering a horrific accident during a shift at Hatfield Colliery in Doncaster in June 2013.

A hydraulic pipe burst and cut eight inches into his body, knocking him off his feet and leaving him struggling to breathe and in need of life-saving surgery.

The dad-of-two said: “My life was in the hands of the emergency services that day, and if they hadn’t got me to the Northern General so quickly I wouldn’t be here now as I was deteriorating fast.

“It took around an hour to get me out of the mine as I was so far underground so if I’d had to endure a land ambulance transfer, which would have taken around 50 minutes, I simply wouldn’t have made it.”

It took just eight minutes to get Richard to the Northern General in the helicopter and almost the same again to transfer him by land ambulance up to the hospital.

“I was still conscious when we landed and I remember being transferred to a waiting land ambulance to take me to the emergency room, I could feel every bump and it was just so painful.

“One of the paramedics later told me that I was one of the most critically injured patients she had ever seen and that I survived against all the odds, I’m truly thankful to every one of them.”

Richard, who lives in Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire, added: “You never think it’s going to happen to you, but the reality is that it could be you or someone you love, that’s why I’m supporting the helipad appeal.”

The project will cost around £2 million to complete, however, more than £1.4 million has already been pledged or committed including £900,000 from the County Air Ambulance Trust, which exists to help fund helipads. This leaves £585,000 that still needs to be raised.

The Northern General was designated a major trauma centre in April 2013, and is one of a network of 26 across England. The centres operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are staffed by consultant-led specialist teams able to handle the most extreme and urgent trauma cases.

It serves a population of around 1.8 million covering all of South Yorkshire and parts of the Humber, Derbyshire and the East Midlands.

Dr Stuart Reid, consultant in emergency medicine and clinical lead for major trauma at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “Having the new helipad seconds from our door means we can start working on the patients sooner, which could make all the difference as every second really can count.

“When someone suffers major trauma which involves multiple or serious injury, the speed with which they can get specialist medical help can be the difference between life and death, and that’s why this appeal is so important.”

David Reynolds, director at Sheffield Hospitals Charity, said: “As a charity we aim to support the NHS in giving patients in Sheffield and the surrounding areas the best possible care. Our appeal for a new helipad is about ensuring those in the greatest need get the best treatment they can as soon as is physically possible to give them the highest chance of survival and the best possible recovery.”

The closest alternative MTCs are in Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham or Stoke. Local patients could be taken to one of these if air ambulance crews decide not to risk a land ambulance transfer or need a better landing site.

Sir Andrew Cash, chief executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said: “All the staff within Sheffield Teaching Hospitals do a tremendous job day after day to ensure all of our patients receive the best possible care.

“We hope the public will back this important campaign to help our staff provide an even better service and save precious time for the most critically injured patients in their hour of need.”

To find out more about the Sheffield Helipad Appeal or to make a donation visit www.sheffieldhelipad.com or call Sheffield Hospitals Charity on 0114 271 1351. Donate £5 by texting HOSPITAL10 £5 to 70660.