The first helicopter to land on a new £500,000 helipad in Hull touched down last week.
A five-person crew from Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance was the first to fly in and step foot on the newly-completed helipad to the rear of the Hull Royal Infirmary site.
Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has undertaken a major construction project so that patients seriously hurt in accidents across East and North Yorkshire and parts of Lincolnshire can be flown to the hospital, which is the major trauma centre (MTC) for the region.
Following demolition of the old Haughton Building to the rear of the hospital, and many months of planning, clearing work, and development; the helipad construction work was finally signed off last week.
And, within minutes of getting the ‘thumbs up’, the opportunity for the first test landing arose as Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance had just flown a patient into the existing helipad, on the opposite side of Argyle Street, and were awaiting a call to their next job.
Intensive care consultant, Dr Tom Cowlam, the trust’s clinical lead for the MTC, said: “The new helipad looks very impressive and the fact that we were able to complete the first test landing so quickly after construction was completed was down to pure chance, but now that we’ve seen the first helicopter land, we’re looking forward to being able to complete all of the tests with our partners and bring the helipad into permanent use.”
Situated behind the hospital’s £12m emergency department, the helipad was entirely funded by the HELP Appeal, which is the only charity in the country dedicated to funding hospital helipads.
Robert Bertram, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Everyone is aware of the vital roles that hospitals and air ambulances play in treating a critically-ill patient, but having a helipad beside the emergency department (ED) can play a significant part in saving vital minutes when transporting a patient to the expert care they need to save their lives.
“As the only charity in the country funding life-saving helipads we are pleased to be able to cover the entire cost. We know the difference having a ground-level helipad right outside ED will make.”
Test flights will continue over the next few weeks until all 15 agencies which regularly fly patients into Hull Royal Infirmary, including Yorkshire Air Ambulance, the Search & Rescue helicopter, and the Embrace children’s air ambulance, have all completed at least one landing.
Previously, patients were flown to a helipad on the other side of the hospital car park at Anlaby Road and had to be transferred to the hospital in an ambulance.Once all agencies have been able to test land successfully, the new helipad will be opened up for regular use and the current one decommissioned. Dr Cowlam said: “The new helipad will shorten the journey by a quarter of an hour and remove the need for the patient to be transferred in a second ambulance to the emergency department.
“It will make the transfer quicker and more seamless for the trauma patient.
“When you have a really-poorly person, this might be the difference between life and death because this could be the time when they are having surgery or a massive blood transfusion to save them.”
The landgin zone measures 30m by 30m and more than 900 tonnes of concrete were used to build it.
An access road for fire engines and service vehicles has been built alongside a second pedestrian route where patients will be carried out of the air ambulance and rushed into the emergency department.
And special double fences have been erected around the helipad as baffles to reduce noise pollution, with the majority of the site turfed with pinned grass covered with mesh overlay to act as a ‘soakaway’ to remove water from the helipad.
In addition, lights have been imported from Holland to be set into the concrete, now covered in specialist paint.