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Addenbrooke’s helipad to operate 24/7

Planning permission for a 24/7 helipad at Addenbrooke’s has been granted to improve outcomes for patients requiring emergency care.

The extension has been welcomed by Air Ambulance charities in the East of England, and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) as the Major Trauma Centre for the region.

Currently, East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA), Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) and Magpas Air Ambulance use a temporary helipad at Addenbrooke’s, which was operational between 7.00am and 9.00pm. The extension to a 24/7 basis, which came into effect on 20 May, will benefit patients suffering from the most serious injuries, where immediate transportation to emergency care facilities can be vital.

It will also reduce the need and time for additional transfers by land ambulance, ensuring critically injured and unwell patients from anywhere in the region can receive quicker treatment from the Major Trauma Centre, regardless of the time of day or night. This will also help to reduce discomfort for patients and pressure to an already complex medical emergency.

East Anglian Air Ambulance in flight
The helipad is used by East Anglian Air Ambulance, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance, and Magpas Air Ambulance

From road traffic collisions to cardiac arrests to medical emergencies, the specialist doctors, critical care paramedics and pilots at the three air ambulance charities bring the advanced skills, equipment and medicine – normally only found in a specialist emergency department – directly to the patient’s side in the fastest time possible. This, combined with quick onward transfer to the most appropriate hospital, gives every patient experiencing a medical or trauma emergency the best chance of survival.

Addenbrooke's helipad with 'STOP' sign to the right and biomedical campus buildings in the distance
The helipad is situated on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Mr Jai Rawal, Clinical Director for Major Trauma Centre at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: "Health emergencies are extremely frightening for patients and their loved ones. As the Major Trauma Centre for the East of England, CUH provides surgery, critical care, inpatient, rehabilitation and discharge services. Fast access to our highly trained clinical teams and the right equipment can be the difference between life and death, and gives patients the best chance of recovery. CUH welcomes the extension of the helipad’s operating hours at Addenbrooke’s. It is anticipated that there will only be a slight increase in the number of flights to and from the helipad, but each flight will have an enormous impact for the patient."

This is a major step forward in the provision of emergency care for our local population and we continue to work closely with our urgent care partners to improve services.

Mr Jai Rawal, Clinical Director for Major Trauma Centre at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Arial shot of the empty Addenbrooke's helipad
The helipad is situated on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus

EAAA has been flying 24/7 from their Norwich base for almost three years. In the last 12 months, as well as seeing a 6% increase in daytime taskings, the charity, which has a base in Cambridge, has been significantly busier at night, with a 17% increase in callouts.

Alan Ward, Aviation Advisor at EAAA says: “We have been really pleased to work in partnership with Addenbrooke’s on the development of a 24/7 helipad, which will have a notable positive impact on patient outcomes in our region. The helipad time restrictions required secondary ambulance land transfers if, for instance, the patient is landed at Cambridge Airport, so this progress towards a 24/7 helipad at Addenbrooke’s is significant in giving everyone the best chance of surviving and recovering from a life-threatening emergency.”

Dr Tony Joy, Medical Director at EHAAT welcomes the extension. “With Addenbrooke’s being a primary Major Trauma Centre for Essex, Hertfordshire, and the surrounding regions, we frequently transport patients there. The plans to develop a 24/7 helipad landing site are hugely welcome and will lead to a reduction in transfer times for critically ill and injured patients, helping to improve their clinical outcomes."

EHAAT and other charities are working tirelessly on the campaign to improve local and national helipad infrastructure, and we look forward to continuing this collaborative work alongside our neighbouring air ambulances, EAAA and Magpas Air Ambulance as we collectively strive to deliver the most effective critical care to our local communities.’

Dr Tony Joy, Medical Director at EHAAT

Natalie Church, Magpas Air Ambulance Director of Operations, adds “At Magpas Air Ambulance, we believe that every hospital should have a permanent, immediately accessible helipad—particularly the major trauma centres in any region—that is available 24/7, just as many air ambulance charities are.

“We’re pleased Addenbrooke’s has made a great step towards this and will continue to work collaboratively with the other air ambulance services in the East of England to ensure all hospitals in the region prioritise a helipad in their building’s infrastructure plans.”