New Helicopter Touches Down in Oxford
There was a special arrival at London Oxford Airport today when the national Children’s Air Ambulance charity landed at its new designated airbase from where it will launch missions to help to save young lives.
The momentous occasion was attended by the Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council Cllr Gill Sanders and saw a seven-year project to provide a nationwide high speed transfer service for critically ill children and babies come to fruition.
The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) is the first and only dedicated paediatric and neonatal transfer helicopter service in the country operating four times faster than road transfer. It will be operational from London Oxford from Monday 17 September.
The charity is funded entirely by donations and works closely with nine NHS Clinical Partner Teams such as the Southampton Oxford Retrieval Team (SORT) and Southampton Oxford Neonatal Transfer service (SONeT).
Speaking at a ceremony to unveil the new aircraft and airbase, TCAA CEO Andy Williamson said: “This is the culmination of a long and difficult journey to provide this unique service and I am very proud to see it come to fruition and of all those involved in making the dream in Oxfordshire a reality.
“The difference the charity’s two new helicopters will make to children, parents and NHS doctors and nurses involved in paediatric and neonatal specialist air transfers is very significant and that’s what this charity is all about.”
Since 2012 the charity have completed more than 300 missions with its clinical partners operating out of the Midlands with one aircraft but the decision to provide two helicopters at bases in the north and south of Great Britain will enable the charity to meet more needs with a target of 600 missions a year.
One of those who has seen first-hand the difference the transfer service can make to the health of a critically ill child is mum Gemma whose daughter Poppy was premature when she was delivered by emergency caesarean and suffered complications.
After undergoing lifesaving treatment, by a specialist paediatric team in Nottingham, the Children’s Air Ambulance was able to fly Poppy home to Grimsby in just over an hour – considerably faster than a journey by road.
Thanks to the specialist equipment and highly trained NHS Specialist Transport Teams on board, Poppy could travel to her family home safely to recover with her loved ones around her.
Commenting on the transfer, Gemma said, “It was fantastic to hear that Poppy could be home in minutes. When we met the crew they were also amazing. You know when you feel so safe. We felt 100% reassured by the crew; that was when I knew she was going to be fine. Getting her home at that time was, well, amazing.
“If someone isn’t sure whether to leave a donation to the charity, I would say do it. People don’t realise how important the Children’s Air Ambulance is. You won’t regret it. I was lucky that Poppy was flying home, and was on the mend.”
The AgustaWestland 169 Helicopters will be based in Oxford and Doncaster, and will be the only flying intensive care units in the country dedicated to transferring critically ill children and babies from local hospitals to specialist paediatric and neonatal treatment centres.
The bespoke equipment on-board includes a specially designed stretcher system and clinical interior, incubator and extra seat for a parent to be able to accompany their child. These state of the art facilities make the helicopters second to none in the provision of paediatric and neonatal transfers.
TCAA Director of Operations Richard Clayton added: “What a monumental day for the charity and for Oxfordshire. It’s been an incredibly complex project to manage but now the exciting work really starts as we open our new airbase in readiness for transferring our first patient.
“Oxford provides the perfect location for us to work closely with our NHS Clinical Partners in delivering the highest level of paediatric neonatal care to the southern regions of the country.
“We’re very proud to launch our service in the heart of Oxfordshire and look forward to working with supporters from the county to ensure we’re able to keep our aircraft flying, keep hope alive and keep families together.”
The expansion of the charity and service has been welcomed by the nine clinical partners nationwide that it currently works in partnership with and at absolutely no cost to the NHS.
‘We are very excited about the new opportunities that the second aircraft offers to the Southampton SONeT team in moving unwell and premature babies,” explained Sarah Davidson, Consultant Neonatologist, Southampton Hub Lead SONeT.
“The charity is a real support to us providing our service and we are proud to partner with them.”
Counsellor Reg Waite and wife Dee are leading fundraising efforts for The Children’s Air Ambulance in Oxfordshire and raised £5,034 from their most recent event.