Yorkshire Air Ambulance helicopters grounded for emergency purposes

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Both Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) helicopters are to temporarily stop flying to emergencies as paramedics join the fight against coronavirus on land.

YAA said it had taken the "extremely difficult decision" along with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) to redeploy all of their critical care paramedics onto frontline land ambulance duties.

It comes just days after it was announced that the YAA’s critical care consultants were to be redeployed back to their respective hospitals to focus on their primary roles in emergency medicine, anaesthesia and critical care across Yorkshire.

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The announcement means neither helicopter will be used "for emergency purposes for now".

Yorkshire Air Ambulance.Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Yorkshire Air Ambulance. | other

But occasional, mandatory pilot training will continue and there is the possibility taht the helicopters will be used to transfer essential medical equipment or personnel across the region at some point in the future.

The announcement coincides with the news that the Harrogate Convention Centre is to be opened as one of four national Coronavirus NHS Nightingale Hospitals specifically set up to deal with patients of Covid-19.

Peter Sunderland, Chairman of the YAA, said: “As the NHS anticipates the Coronavirus crisis will intensify in the region over the next few weeks, demand on the new Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate will inevitably increase.

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"This means that patients will need transferring by road ambulance to the facility, and this will be supported by YAS’s specialist team of highly skilled paramedics.

"As our critical care paramedics fall into this category, is it vitally important that their skills are utilised to provide as much support as possible during this crisis period.”

The YAA crew will complete their last shift from their Nostell Airbase today (Friday, March 3) before being immediately redeployed to the YAS frontline.

Mr Sunderland added: “Obviously this situation isn’t ideal for the charity, however we know we must do whatever we can to support our colleagues in the NHS and at YAS, and by redeploying our doctors and paramedics back to the frontline, where they are currently needed the most, this is the best decision we can take at this time.

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"We do wish to reinforce however, that this is just a temporary measure, and that the YAA crews and helicopters will be back flying as soon as the situation starts to safely subside.”

Nick Smith, Executive Director of Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust added: “This has been the most difficult of decisions, but we are currently operating in unprecedented times and we need to ensure that valuable clinical resources are in place where they can be of most benefit to patients.

"We are sincerely grateful to Peter Sunderland and his team for their understanding and continued support at this challenging time.”

Mr Sunderland added: “It is times like these when, as a nation, we must all pull together to support one and other, and in particular the NHS and our key workers.

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"Our vital contribution at this time is to support them by redeploying our key medical personnel back to the frontline, where they are currently needed the most.

“The charity will continue to do everything it can at this time to plan for the future, and as soon as this situation has safely subsided, our helicopters will be back in the air and our fundraising teams will be back out and about supporting and educating the people of Yorkshire about the wonderful work we do.

“Finally, we would also reiterate our message from earlier in the week reinforcing the government’s message to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons if you have to.

"We must all do our bit to help stop the spread of this virus as soon as possible.

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"Please ensure you and your loved ones keep safe and I personally thank everyone for their ongoing support.”

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