Northern Ireland

RVH helipad may not be operational for North West 200

An air ambulance came from Sligo to transfer an injured spectator to hospital in Belfast during the 2015 NW 200 Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption An air ambulance came from Sligo to transfer an injured spectator to hospital in Belfast during the 2015 NW 200

The helipad on the roof of the Royal Victoria Hospital's critical care centre may not be ready in time for 2017's North West 200 motorcycle race.

The health minister said the NI Ambulance Service was still completing the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service business case.

Michelle O'Neill said that once this had been approved, building the helipad could take nine months.

NI is the only UK region without a helicopter emergency medical service.

The estimated cost of the pad is £800,000.

'Flying doctor' death

Northern Ireland's new air ambulance service is expected to be closely based on the Welsh model.

Image caption The new air ambulance service is expected to be closely based on the Welsh model

The Welsh model has three helicopters and has been operating for 15 years. It is run by a charity but staffed by the NHS.

Following the death of a 35-year-old known as the "flying doctor" of Irish motorcycle sport, plans were announced last year to set up a charity to support Dr John Hinds' vision of a Northern Ireland air ambulance.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Dr Hinds was killed in an accident while providing medical cover at the Skerries 100

The motorcycle medic died as a result of a motorcycle crash in July 2015, while providing medical cover at a road racing meeting in County Dublin.

Just weeks before his death, Dr Hinds told the BBC that an air ambulance service was essential and would be "a game-changer in terms of trauma provision".

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