The Minister for Health Simon Hamilton MLA is seeking to provide people who experience a major trauma with the best possible service to improve their chances of survival and he believes now is the right time to transform the major trauma services in Northern Ireland. The development of the new Critical Care Building at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the supportive public debate on the need for a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) provides the opportunity for this.
Speaking at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Headquarters and Control Centre on September 3rd last, Minister Hamilton gave a commitment for a Trauma Network. “I formally announce my commitment to further strengthen our existing high quality trauma services by enabling clinicians to take this service to the next level. This commitment involves the establishment of the Northern Ireland Trauma Network, with recurrent investment of £211,000 to operate the Network, and plans to move forward with a HEMS as a key component of the network”.
The Regional Network will further develop the Royal Victoria Hospital as the centre of Northern Ireland’s major trauma service working within a strong network of acute hospitals across the region. Protocol dictates that patients should be transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital directly, provided they are able to withstand the journey. If a patient is not able for the journey, they are taken to the nearest major acute hospital within the network with the intention of transferring them to the Royal Victoria Hospital when they are able.
Speed of patient transport to the specialist centre is therefore a key requirement for an effective trauma network. This is something the Minster is looking to take to the next level. “I am therefore announcing today my commitment to the establishment of a Northern Ireland HEMS as a key component of the Trauma Network. The exact HEMS model will be determined following the outcome of a public consultation to be undertaken by my Department on key issues related to the development of the HEMS. The key issues covered by the consultation will include service configuration, target patient groups, home base location and funding models” he said.
The public consultation document will be launched later this month and anyone with an interest in HEMS is asked to respond with their views.
The estimated cost for a HEMS is £2.38m for initial infrastructure and £1.8m annual recurrent operating costs. Given the difficult financial climate for the health service with many competing priorities for funding we will need to establish if it is possible to secure a robust and recurrent charitable funding contribution for this service. The Health Minister paid tribute to all the trauma clinicians, nurses, paramedics and support staff for the exemplary service that they provide in striving to save lives.