Heartfelt call for air ambulance

Dr Janet Acheson, partner of the late Dr John Hinds, with Shaun McCann (7), whose life Dr Hinds saved.
Dr Janet Acheson, partner of the late Dr John Hinds, with Shaun McCann (7), whose life Dr Hinds saved.

The partner of Tandragee road racing medic Dr John Hinds has said an air ambulance for Northern Ireland cannot wait any longer.

Speaking at an event in Stormont on Monday to promote the service, Doctor Janet Acheson said lives are “on the line”.

Dr Acheson was speaking publicly for the first time since the death of Dr Hinds in July. He was killed after his bike crashed when he was providing medical cover at a Skerries 100 practice session.

Dr John Hinds, one of the ‘flying doctors’ of Irish road racing, was a consultant at Craigavon Hospital Area Hospital.

Dr Acheson said John’s dream was the establishment of a first-class, world-leading trauma network, with a doctor-led Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) at its core.

And she pointed out that what John did so well was not only bringing people back from the brink of death but also ‘saving brains’, citing the example of seven-year-old Shaun McCann who was at the Stormont event with his mother Jessica.

Shaun suffered a life threatening head injury in 2013 as a result of a simple fall at his home. Dr Hinds volunteered to attend with the air ambulance paramedic to Shaun’s home.

She added, “Recognising the severity of Shaun’s head injury Doc John provided Shaun with a general anaesthetic and placed him in an induced coma to protect his brain. He provided mobile intensive care level support whilst Shaun was being flown to a hospital with the specialities necessary to deal with his injuries. As you can see today Shaun made a full recovery and two weeks ago welcomed his baby sister Alana to the family.”

Dr Acheson said that since the publication of the 2003 HEMS feasibility study until June this year, 1,508 people had died in road traffic accidents alone in Northern Ireland. And she added that between 215 and 600 of these people would still be alive had HEMS been available in Northern Ireland.

She said Northern Ireland’s HEMS should be funded in the long term by the government to give it stability, as it in Scotland and Wales where it has been “a resounding success”.

She thanked Jim Allister for organising the event and acknowledged last month’s announcement of a consultation on the establishment of a HEMS and trauma network, by Health Minister Simon Hamilton.