Express & Star

New ‘lifesaving’ helipad opens on island

The Help Appeal, a charity dedicated to funding hospital helipads, covered the cost of building one on Mull.

New helipad

A “lifesaving” helipad has opened next to an island hospital following a charity donation.

The new helipad adjacent to the Mull and Iona Community Hospital means that patients will no longer have to be taken by road ambulance to an airstrip 15 minutes away for transfer from Mull to the mainland.

It was built after the Help Appeal, a charity dedicated to funding hospital helipads, donated £418,000 to cover the entire cost of its construction and lighting installation.

New helipad
The helipad is situated next to the hospital (Iain Erskine/PA)

Scottish Air Ambulance and larger HM Coastguard helicopters will be able to land beside Mull and Iona Community Hospital at any time of the day or night to fly patients onwards for specialist hospital treatment elsewhere.

Robert Bertram, the Help Appeal’s chief executive, said: “This helipad is a game changer for the local community.

“When you’re seriously ill, delaying a departure from the island to access treatment at a major trauma hospital or A&E hospital on the mainland could have serious consequences.

“This new helipad dramatically speeds up that access meaning that many more lives could be saved and demonstrates the Help Appeal’s commitment to Scotland with another lifesaving helipad.”

Construction of the helipad began in May 2023 on land donated by Andy and Naomi Knight.

Former air ambulance patient Scott Paterson, 24, from Mull, has welcomed the construction of the helipad.

He suffered spinal injuries after his car careered down an embankment, rolling over several times, while he was taking part in the Mull Rally in 2022.

After his injuries were assessed at Mull and Iona Community Hospital, a decision was made to transfer him urgently to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow.

Despite having double compression fractures in his spine, he had to be transferred by road ambulance from the hospital to Glenforsa airstrip, which took 15 minutes over bumpy terrain.

He said: “If the helipad had been available at Mull and Iona Hospital at the time of my accident, I could have had a smooth and quick transfer to Glasgow.

“Although the ambulance staff were incredible and looked after me so well, the bumpy journey to Glenforsa was very uncomfortable and I was so worried not knowing how bad my injuries were at the time or if they could become life changing or life threatening.

“This helipad is going to help so many people like me whenever they need immediate access to a specialist trauma centre.”

Mr Paterson has since made a full recovery.

NHS Highland is a key partner in the project.

Cheryl-Ann Paterson, NHS Highland’s senior charge nurse for Mull and Iona Community Hospital, said: “We’re really grateful that the Help Appeal has been so supportive by funding 100% of the cost of our new helipad.

“It is going to make such a difference to the health outcomes for our patients and the whole NHS team across the island are united in their thanks.”

The Help Appeal has funded more than 45 helipads across the UK, which have seen more than 27,000 landings.

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