The region’s air ambulance has opened a new base at Newcastle International Airport, enabling it to reach north Northumberland faster than before.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) will now operate out of Tyne and Wear after a partnership agreement was made with the airport.
GNAAS will still hold its main operational headquarters at Durham Tees Valley Airport near Darlington. It also operates an aircraft at Langwathby in Cumbria, which will also remain unaffected.
Kevin Hodgson, director of operations at GNAAS, said the Newcastle base would provide a strategic waypoint which will allow the charity to better serve the North East as a whole.
“This is great news for the charity and great news for the region,” he added. “It means we can now refuel and be ready for action quicker than ever before. We remain committed to Durham Tees Valley Airport, which has been a great supporter of the charity, but this arrangement just gives us greater flexibility, and that can only be of benefit to the patient. We would like to thank Newcastle International Airport for their support, this will make a big difference to the service we offer the region.”
Testing of the new arrangement has already highlighted how important it could prove to be. On Sunday, May 11, a woman fell at home in Swinhoe, near Holy Island, suffering two suspected broken legs. The charity’s Guardian of the North aircraft was already situated at the new base, and from there reached the scene in seven minutes. From its normal base, the flight would have taken around twenty minutes.
Mr Hodgson said: “When responding to an emergency, time can be absolutely critical to the patient’s survival. Anyone in Tyne and Wear, and in Northumberland to the north, will benefit from much quicker response times when the aircraft is stationed at the new base.”
The Gazette asked about whether a site further north in Northumberland had been considered and was told that Newcastle is ideal for the whole region because of the amount of work the GNAAS does at the RVI. This means within a couple of minutes of dropping a patient off at the hospital, they can be refuelled, restocked and ready to go on the next mission.
Plus that aircraft is now ideally placed for flights into Northumberland as well as the areas of north County Durham and Tyne & Wear where most of the call-outs come from. The Pride of Cumbria will also continue to fly into Northumberland when needed from its base near Penrith.