THE region’s air ambulance has opened a new base at Newcastle International Airport.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) will now operate out of Tyne and Wear after a partnership agreement was made with the airport.
GNAAS will still hold its main operational headquarters at Durham Tees Valley Airport near Darlington. It also operates an aircraft at Langwathby in Cumbria, which will also remain unaffected.
Kevin Hodgson, director of operations at GNAAS, said the Newcastle base would provide a strategic waypoint which will allow the charity to better serve the North-East as a whole.
“This is great news for the charity and great news for the region,” he added. “It means we can now refuel and be ready for action quicker than ever before.
“We remain committed to Durham Tees Valley Airport, which has been a great supporter of the charity, but this arrangement just gives us greater flexibility, and that can only be of benefit to the patient.
“We would like to thank Newcastle International Airport for their support, this will make a big difference to the service we offer the region.”
The GNAAS aircraft are frequent visitors to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital, which is one of only 12 hospitals listed by the NHS as adult and children’s major trauma centres in the country, along with the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
Instead of flying straight back to base near Darlington, the helicopters will now be able to stop-over in Tyne and Wear, allowing for a more rapid refuelling and restocking, while providing the doctors, paramedics and pilots time to prepare for their next assignment. The new base features office space, toilet and kitchen facilities.
Testing of the new arrangement has already highlighted how important it could prove to be. On Sunday, May 11, a woman fell at home in Swinhoe, near Holy Island, Northumberland, suffering two suspected broken legs.
The charity’s Guardian of the North aircraft was already situated at the new base, and from there reached the scene in seven minutes. From its normal base, the flight would have taken around twenty minutes.
Mr Hodgson said: “When responding to an emergency, time can be absolutely critical to the patient’s survival. Anyone in Tyne and Wear, and in Northumberland to the north, will benefit from much quicker response times when the aircraft is stationed at the new base.”
Dave Laws, chief executive of Newcastle International Airport, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Great North Air Ambulance with a new base here at Newcastle International Airport.
“Good transport links are essential, not only for the North-East travelling public, but for services like the air ambulance, that have to reach people in need as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are pleased to support the Great North Air Ambulance and their activities across the region which help so many people each year.”
The Great North Air Ambulance Service is 100 per cent charitably funded and must raise around £4m a year to keep flying. It flies around 1,000 missions a year across the North East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.