The new helipad will save thousands of lives, helping the hospital serve its trauma population of 4.5 million people across south east London and Kent.
Built on top of the hospital’s 10-storey Ruskin Wing, the helipad has been made possible thanks to a multi-million-pound donation from the County Air Ambulance HELP Appeal – the only charity in the country dedicated to funding the construction of hospital helipads. In addition, more than 2,600 patients, staff, and members of the local community generously donated £500,000 to the hospital’s Time is Life Appeal.
The helipad is the first in mainland UK to be equipped with a deck integrated firefighting (DIFF) system. This system automatically sprays foam from a series of nozzles installed into the helideck in the event of a fire, instead of relying on a team of fire fighters to manually extinguish it. Using the automated fire system will save the Trust £300,000 each year compared to employing firefighters, and it guarantees to extinguish a blaze within eight seconds. The system also frees up firefighters to work on the ground.
The new helipad will speed up the time it takes helicopters to transfer critically ill patients to King’s, and reduce ‘landing-to-resus’ transfer times to just five minutes. At present, helicopters land in nearby Ruskin Park and patients are transferred to King’s by road – a process which can take as long as 25 minutes.
Dr Malcolm Tunnicliff is Clinical Director for Emergency Medicine at King’s College Hospital. He is also Deputy Director of the South East London Kent and Medway (SELKaM) Major Trauma Network, and a doctor with the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust – a charity providing a Helicopter Emergency Service (HEMS) to the south east of England, and is Governance Lead for the charity.
He said: “We are incredibly pleased that our helipad at King’s is operational. It’s a very positive development for the patients we treat and our staff, who go above and beyond every single day to save people’s lives. At King’s we treat some of the most seriously ill and critically injured patients in the south east. The helipad will speed up the time it takes to transfer patients from helicopter to hospital, giving patients the very best chance of survival.”
Mr Robert Bentley, Clinical Director of the King’s Trauma Centre (KTC) and South East London Kent and Medway (SELKaM) Major Trauma Network, added: “We are very grateful to the County Air Ambulance HELP Appeal, plus the many other donors and fundraisers from across the King’s hospital community – without their generous contributions, the helipad would not have been possible.
“When a patient has experienced major trauma it is vital they get specialist treatment as quickly as possible. In these situations, time is life.
“We are proud to be the best performing major trauma network in the country, and our new helipad will help us continue our focus on delivering world-class trauma care, and saving even more lives.”
Robert Bertram, Chief Executive of the HELP Appeal which donated £2.75 million, including £500,000 towards the entire cost of the DIFF, explained the importance of the new system: “This automatic system is safer for everyone including emergency rescue teams as they can work alongside the spray activation to help with evacuating patients and staff from air ambulances. It has also been shown to put out fires really efficiently and isn’t affected by the wind – a must when the helipad is located on the roof of King’s College Hospital.
“Typically used on oil rigs, this is the first time DIFF will be used on a helipad in mainland UK where even though the chance of a fire is much lower, we feel reassured that if it ever does happen, we now have the best possible chance of getting the fire completely extinguished and critically ill patients can continue their journey to the Emergency Department quickly as possible.
“We have pledged £2.75 million to this helipad as we are fully aware of the drastic difference this helipad will make. Every second counts when a critical accident or injury happens, and the new helipad will make sure the most seriously ill or injured patients get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.”
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