Portland helicopter base will close

A Dorset MP has said he is "bitterly disappointed" by today's announcement over the privatisation of the UK's search and rescue helicopter service, as it will mean the closure of a search and rescue base at Portland.

Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset, who has conducted a campaign to keep the helicopter flying, said that the decision was "utterly flawed".

We know from the number of call outs and the number of lives saved that this helicopter pays for itself many, many times over. Last year alone, 25 casualties were flown directly to the trauma centre at Dorchester hospital. They would not have survived without the Portland helicopter. If we use the Department for Transport’s own figures of £1.6m per fatality, these life saving missions have saved the public purse something in the region of £40m. When you consider that the Portland helicopter costs approximately £5m a year to run, this is truly a false economy."

– Richard Drax MP, South Dorset

The MP said he intended to fight on to save the Portland helicopter and that he had to hope the Government would see sense.

The need for this helicopter has been proved many times over. When I read the Department for Transport’s press release this morning, I despaired. They are still focusing on a ‘faster, state of the art’ search and rescue fleet and ignoring the obvious need to base helicopters close to where the action is. Let me remind them. Twenty five per cent of all call outs in the country are centred upon Portland. Suggesting that simply because they are faster, these new helicopters can somehow reach two simultaneous events in different places is nonsensical."

– Richard Drax MP

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Rescue helicopters privatised

A centre in Kent will be re-opened under a new £1.6bn contract awarded to a private company to provide helicopter rescue services across the UK.