Why do we need an onsite helipad at QMC?

In an emergency, valuable seconds can make all the difference. Getting patients to hospital as quickly as possible is vital. At the moment, patients with life-threatening injuries who are being taken to the East Midlands Trauma Centre at QMC by air ambulance must land at Highfields Playing Fields at the University of Nottingham. Patients then complete their journey by road, which takes around 20 minutes. An onsite helipad at QMC will reduce this transfer times to less than 5 minutes – helping to save time and save lives.


What is the East Midlands Major Trauma Centre?
Opened in 2012, the East Midlands Major Trauma Centre (MTC) is one of 22 Major Trauma Centres across the UK. The MTC has the specialist staff and equipment to treat patients with multiple injuries that could result in death or a serious disability.

The MTC is the hub of a trauma network throughout the East Midlands which is helping to improve patient care and save more lives. Ambulance crews are now trained to bring the most seriously injured patients to the MTC rather than to their local emergency department.

An onsite helipad at QMC will get patients with life-threatening injuries to the East Midlands Major Trauma Centre more quickly than the current arrangement, where air ambulances land at the University of Nottingham and patients complete their journey by road.


What’s wrong with the current arrangement for air ambulances?
At the moment, air ambulances land at the University of Nottingham and patients complete their journey to QMC by road. This service relies on a road ambulance being available and ready to collect the patient when the air ambulance arrives. However, the ring road which connects the university with QMC is extremely busy and there are frequent traffic jams, which mean road ambulance transfers take around 20 minutes.

An onsite helipad will reduce transfer times to less than 5 minutes, saving valuable extra time and giving critically injured trauma patients a fighting chance. It will also reduce the risk and discomfort to patients that can result from a prolonged road transfer.

In addition, the new helipad will speed up the time it takes to get the air ambulance back into service. This is because the on-board doctor must accompany the patient into the Emergency Department before returning to the helicopter – a process that will be much quicker with an onsite helipad.


I thought there was already a helipad at QMC?
There used to be a helicopter landing site at QMC that was located behind South Block, near to the Nursing School Entrance. It was closed down in 2006 due to the planned building of the Circle Treatment Centre on the landing site. The introduction of new Civil Aviation Authority rules also meant that the old helipad no longer met the required safety standards.


Why is the air ambulance so important?
The air ambulance supports the land ambulance service when serious accidents or illnesses occur in locations that are hard to reach by road, such as rural areas, or on busy roads like motorways. An air ambulance can get these patients to hospital much more quickly than a land ambulance, making sure they receive the treatment they need as soon as possible and unhindered by traffic delays.


How much will the new helipad be?
Nottingham Hospitals Charity is aiming to raise £3 million to build the new helipad. This amount has been calculated based on the unique challenges and requirements of building a helipad on the QMC site. The helipad will sit on top of a new multi-storey car park, which is being funded and built by the government.

The County Air Ambulance Trust HELP Appeal, which exists to help fund hospital helipads, has already donated £250,000 as part of a larger overall pledge. However, we’re relying on public donations and fundraising to help us raise the remaining amount.


Why £3 million?
Building a helipad involves much more than simply constructing a concrete slab and painting an H on it. The helipad must meet strict safety and environmental requirements and there are also a number of technical and logistical challenges to overcome.

For example, the helipad must be built in an elevated position, due to the height of the QMC and surrounding infrastructure. The landing pad and supporting structures must be suitably reinforced to withstand frequent use by modern air ambulances, which are extremely large and heavy. The helipad will require highly sophisticated lighting, air traffic control systems, fire safety systems and equipment. We’ll also need to purchase a dedicated land ambulance to cover the short distance from the helipad to the Emergency Department entrance.


Does the £3 million include buying an air ambulance?
No. Air ambulances are purchased and maintained by air ambulance charities. The £3 million that we’re raising will fund the building of the helipad at QMC. It will also cover the cost of a dedicated land ambulance to take patients the short distance from the new helipad to the Emergency Department (see below).


Why isn’t the NHS paying for the helipad?
NHS funding is always limited. The financial challenge faced by NUH is unprecedented and demands on the Trust’s finances are exceptional. Like the funding of air ambulances themselves, the building of most hospital helipads relies entirely on charitable donations – and this is the case with the helipad at QMC. Nottingham Hospitals Charity exists to support the hospitals by providing highly valued extras that make a real difference to patient experience. We believe it’s vitally important that the QMC has a dedicated onsite helipad, so we launched the Saving Lives Helipad Appeal in July 2014.


Where will the helipad be built?
Artist's impression of the helipad at the QMCThe helipad will be built on top of a new multi-storey car park at the south of the site (parallel with the A52) in car park 3.


How did you decide where the helipad should be built?
All possible locations for a standalone helipad at QMC have been considered over a number of years. This includes roof top and surface helipads on different parts of the QMC site. NUH has completed a range of feasibility tests for each option, some of which ruled out a number of the options we explored based on both cost and what was structurally possible.

The Trust has also worked closely with the Helicopter Advisor for the County Air Ambulance Trust. Their expert advice helped to identify that the best location for the new helipad would be on top of the new multi-storey car park.


How will patients get from the new helipad to the Emergency Department?
A lift will take patients from the top of the multi-storey car park to a special ambulance bay on the ground floor. The lift will be isolated from general use when the helipad is in use, so it will be ready when the patient arrives. A dedicated land ambulance will then drive the patient to the Emergency Department (ED).

The transfer from the air ambulance to the ED will take less than 5 minutes. This is significantly quicker than the current transfer time, which can take up to 20 minutes – helping save time, to save lives.


What are the timescales for the helipad?
We’re hoping to get the helipad as soon as we can. However, the helipad will be entirely funded by charitable donations, which is why we’re asking people to support the Saving Lives Helipad Appeal by donating or fundraising for the charity.


Who will use the new helipad?
The helipad will receive patients travelling to the East Midlands Major Trauma Centre for urgent treatment for serious injuries and illnesses. Patients will either be transferred directly from accident sites, or from other hospitals in the region that have identified the patient’s requirement to be treated at a Major Trauma Centre.


Where will the patients come from?
The East Midlands Major Trauma Centre at QMC primarily covers the counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Rutland. Weather conditions influence which Major Trauma Centre air ambulance patients are flown to, so QMC sometimes receives patients from outside these counties as well. At the moment, a large proportion of air ambulance patients are flown in from rural Lincolnshire.


How many people will use the helipad?
At the moment, the Emergency Department sees around 174 air ambulance patients a year. The new helipad should see this number increase, as it will make it faster and easier to transfer patients to ED on arrival. There will also be more helicopter transfers from other hospitals, as the new helipad will make it quicker and easier to transfer patients who need urgent access to specialist services at QMC.


Will it be very noisy when the helipad is in use?
Helicopters are by nature loud, so there will certainly be some noise when aircrafts take off and land. This will be reduced slightly by the helipad being raised above ground level on top of the new car park. Also, the helipad won’t be in use non-stop so the noise will be intermittent. One of the advantages to the chosen location of the helipad is that this is further away from main residential areas compared to previous options that were being considered, and flight paths are not directly over our closest neighbours.


Is the Saving Lives Helipad Appeal the same as an air ambulance charity?
No, the Saving Lives Helipad Appeal is part of Nottingham Hospitals Charity and is completely separate from the air ambulance charities. However, we have received a £250,000 donation (as part of a larger overall pledge) towards the appeal from the County Air Ambulance Trust’s HELP Appeal, which exists to help fund hospital helipads. We’re also working with their expert advisors on the location and design of the helipad.


How can I donate to the Saving Lives Helipad Appeal?
There are several ways you can donate to the Saving Lives Helipad Appeal:

  • Donate online
  • Call 0115 962 7905
  • Text NUHC07 and £2, £5 or £10 to 70070
  • Send cheques payable to ‘Nottingham Hospitals Charity Saving Lives Helipad Appeal’ to FREEPOST NUH CHARITY. You don’t need a stamp.


How can I get involved in fundraising?
We’d love you to get involved in raising funds for the new helipad at QMC! The fundraising team at QMC are ready and waiting to help with your fundraising activities and drum up some publicity, so please get in touch if you’d like our support. Call us on 0115 962 7905 or email charity@nuh.nhs.uk