Northern Ireland air ambulance marks five-year milestone and 3000 missions
Northern Ireland's air ambulance service has been used 3,000 times since it was officially launched in 2017.
The Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), which operates for 12 hours every day throughout the year, is marking it's fifth anniversary on Friday.
It is operated by a partnership between the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland charity.
Its first high-profile callout saw Conor McMullan, then 11, taken to hospital with a serious head fracture after an accident on his family farm.
He went on to make a full recovery, and recently said he will "always be grateful" for the service.
Of the 3,080 missions completed, almost a quarter were for serious road crashes, 22% for medical emergencies, 19% for falls, 10% for agricultural accidents and workplace incidents, 8% for sport and leisure, 4% for deliberate self harm and 3% for drowning and burns.
NIAS medical director Dr Nigel Ruddell thanked all those involved with the service.
"In those five years the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland charity have worked together to ensure that, on over 3,000 occasions, patients have benefited from the highest levels of clinical care provided by the doctor and paramedic team," he said.
"Every call is received in ambulance control with NIAS paramedics dispatched to the scene but, on an average of twice a day, the charity air ambulance is tasked to the incident in support of their road ambulance colleagues.
"Today provides me with an opportunity to thank all those involved in the delivery of the service, including NIAS control staff, NIAS operational staff, the medics in the HEMS team and the pilot, without whose expertise many of these calls could not be reached."
Air Ambulance Northern Ireland is responsible for charity governance and helicopter operations and has two aircraft based just outside Lisburn.
Charity chairman Dr Gerard O'Hare said as well as the clinical provision provided by NIAS, it takes £2 million each year in fundraising to sustain the HEMS, and costs are rising.
"Yet with the continued support of the public we can be there for the next five years, and beyond, to help save lives in Northern Ireland," he said.
The charity is encouraging donations to be made in support of the service at www.airambulanceni.org
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.