This major milestone at Glasgow’s new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) was made possible by the charity HELP Appeal, an organisation dedicated to increasing the number of onsite hospital helipads at major trauma centres and A&E hospitals throughout the UK. I wanted to find out more, so I asked the charity about their work.
Positioned on the rooftop of the QEUH, this large helipad, realised thanks to £700,000 in funding support from the HELP Appeal, sits at the heart of the state-of-the-art facility.
Its size enables the larger search and rescue helicopters to land, as well as regular air ambulances. The helipad’s design helps save time as the Air Ambulance or Coastguard helicopter is met by a team of specialists who take the patient down a ramp on a trolley, directly into the appropriate treatment room in the emergency department, cutting down on transfer time.
The helipad at QEUH was the first HELP Appeal funded helipad in Scotland. It has seen 2060 landings since it opened in 2015.
The Golden Hour
The first 60 minutes following a major trauma injury is known as the ‘Golden Hour’; treatment within the first hour can mean the difference between life and death.
Helipads improve patient outcomes as there are risks to patients who, after landing in an air ambulance, have to finish their journey with a life-threatening secondary transfer to hospital by road ambulance if there is no helipad at the hospital.
The HELP Appeal told me that the delay in treatment and movement are both contributory factors to negative patient outcomes.
“Risks include major physiological derangement, prolonged hospital stays, blood clots, physical injury – including an increased risk of clotting. Road traffic accidents, falls and penetrating injuries are usually the main reasons that patients need to be air-lifted to a hospital helipad, as they can cause crush injuries, fractures, brain injuries, extensive blood loss and cardiac arrests, all of which can be life-threatening.
Helipad patients are often classed as ‘code red’ meaning that they require life-saving blood products, such as a blood transfusion as soon as they arrive in the Emergency Department. They can also often require an emergency CT scan so that the hospital can assess them for tissue and bone injuries.”
When minutes make all the difference for patients suffering from critical illnesses and injuries, it is handy to have a direct route to the emergency department. If patients are treated more quickly, their chances of recovery and survival improve dramatically.
What is the HELP Appeal?
You might not be aware of it, but many are alive today because of it. The charity says that it has funded over 22,000 landings on NHS hospital helipads to date.
In addition to brand new helipads – whether they’re ground, elevated or rooftop – with the advent of air ambulances flying through the night and even larger air ambulance helicopters over recent years, some existing hospital helipads have required upgrades to incorporate lighting and enlargements, all made possible by the HELP Appeal fund.
The charity also funds sheltered walkways and medical buggies to help transfer patients quickly and smoothly from the helipad to the Emergency Departments.
HELP Appeal told me that, in Scotland alone, it has funded or is funding new or upgraded helipads at/in:
- Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow (2015)
- Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway (2015)
- Raigmore Hospital, Inverness (2019)
- Royal Infirmary Edinburgh (2021)
- Campbeltown Hospital (2021)
- Applecross (2021)
- Isle of Skye
- Isle of Arran
- Isle of Barra
- Isle of Mull
- Isle of Islay
- Fort William
Donations from the HELP Appeal to Scottish helipads have amounted to over £2,265,000 so far. The charity has also donated £200,000 towards portable landing lights for Scotland’s Air Ambulance Service for 20 island locations across Scotland.
Applecross community helipad is a direct result of needing a better solution
The lifesaving community helipad in Applecross was built in memory of Bethany Walker, who, in 2018, was 18 years old when she was airlifted from the remote West Highland village to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness in 34 mins – a journey which normally takes two hours or more by road – after contracting the flu, which had developed into sepsis.
Sadly, Bethany died, despite the best efforts of medical staff and the air ambulance, which had to land in the village’s pub car park, the only empty space available at the time. Thanks to a £50,000 donation from the HELP Appeal and money raised from a local community fund created by Bethany’s mum Heather Teale – which also included a donation from actor Hugh Grant – a permanent helipad was built. Heather said: “Bethany hoped to become a midwife, but sadly she never got the chance to fulfil her dream. But her commitment to caring for others and saving lives will be reflected in this lasting legacy of a lifesaving helipad.”
How you can help
Finance for hospitals is tight, but, according to the charity, the demand for the HELP Appeal’s helipad grants continues to grow. Without its supporters, it would not be able to help so many hospitals that urgently need its funding.
There are over 40 more helipads in the pipeline in Scotland and England.
The HELP Appeal relies solely on charitable donations and does not receive any government funding or money from the National Lottery.
To donate, you can visit: https://helpappeal.org.uk/donate-online/