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Major progress made in campaign for air ambulance service

Funding opportunities are being explored for an air ambulance service which could “soon operate” out of Enniskillen, it has emerged this afternoon (Thursday).

The statement came from Finance and Personnel Minister Arlene Foster after a meeting with trustees of Air Ambulance NI Limited.

Options to pay for the service – which could cost an estimated £2.2 million a year – will now be explored.

The campaign for an air ambulance was stepped up following the death earlier this month of Tandragee ‘flying doctor’ Dr John Hinds. The 35-year-old Craigavon Area Hospital consultant and anaesthetist was involved in an accident while providing medical cover at the Skerries 100 Road Races and died the morning after in the Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.

A petition to secure an air ambulance service for Northern Ireland has secured tens of thousands of signatures.

And just days ago Dr Hinds’ partner, Dr Janet Acheson, along with his parents and brothers, revealed it was intended to set up a charity to help establish the service.

Minister Arlene Foster – the DUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone – has welcomed the progress that has been made after meeting with the trustees of Air Ambulance NI Ltd to discuss the way forward.

Mrs Foster had first brought the group together in May 2014 to explore the possibility of establishing such a service, which is widely available in the rest of the UK – and now on a permanent basis in the Republic – but not in Northern Ireland.

Speaking following the meeting, Mrs Foster said: “I welcome the progress that has been made over the last 14 months since we first met.

“Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Limited has now been incorporated and is applying to the Northern Ireland Charity Commission for registration.

“Throughout the UK this valuable service is widely available, with 26 air ambulances serving mainland GB. However we have none in Northern Ireland. This needs to change.

“It is estimated that such a service could cost in the region of £2.2m per year.

“At the meeting today we explored the various funding options that are available and the cocktail for funding which will be required.

“We are hopeful that this service can soon operate from St Angelo Airport, Enniskillen, and serve all of Northern Ireland.”

The four trustees of Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Ltd attending the meeting today were Ray Foran, Chief Operating Officer at Noonan Group; Ian Crowe, Managing Director CPC Ltd; Dr Gerard O’Hare, Parker Green International; and consultant Peter Quinn.

Following the meeting – which they described as “very successful” – they said: “This meeting was a follow up to a summit, supported by Mrs Foster in May 2014, to explore the setting up of an Air Ambulance Service, operating from Enniskillen Airport, servicing all of Northern Ireland.

“We will now work together to explore mixed funding models that will enable the establishment of this important service.

“Positive discussions have also recently taken place with Minister Hamilton, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

“We trust by working together this vital tool in a emergency care will be able to become a reality for people living in Northern Ireland.

“The Trustees are very committed to the establishment of an Air Ambulance Service that will be tasked by and compliment the excellent service provided by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.

“Once the company is registered with the Charity Commission, there will be a formal launch of the charity.”

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