LIVES are being put at risk because air ambulances can’t land right outside Basildon Hospital.
Essex Air Ambulance officials are unhappywith the landing site at South Essex College’s Nethermayne campus, because it is five minutes’ drive from the hospital.
They are even more worried things will soon get worse, as the site is to be redeveloped for housing in the near future.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Air Ambulances has highlighted the problem and is pressing for a helipad to be set out inside the hospital grounds.
Seriously-ill patients from across the region are treated at hospital’s Cardiothoracic Centre.
Many are flown in, but once they land, they face a five-minute ambulance ride to the hospital.
Air ambulance operations director Cliff Gale is worried plans to build 725 homes, a primary school and shops on the college site, will force his helicopters out.
The charity is looking for alternative landing sites, but fears flying medics could end up landing as much as ten minutes’ drive from the hospital.
Mr Gale said: “It can often be the case that minutes can make the difference between a patient having a successful outcome and not.
“There are two risks of landing further away. Firstly, it increases the time before the patient gets to the right department.
“Also, every time you move a patient from trolley to trolley, or aircraft to another vehicle, it can harm them. Basildon Hospital is the major cardiothoracic centre for the whole of the region.
“Speed of getting people to these places of definitive care is the most important thing to ensure their recovery.”
Mr Gale said the ideal situation would be for the hospital to have a landing pad in its grounds, so patients were transferred directly from the helicopter by trolley to the hospital.
However, having looked at the site, he said the layout of the hospital buildings meant it was “highly unlikely” such a site could be found.
He added: “I am speaking to Basildon Hospital to see if is it going to support they concept of another landing site and, if so, where are we going to go.”
Basildon’s problem is far from unique. The Parliamentary group’s report found 60 per cent of air ambulance landing spots across the UK were far from ideal.
ABasildon Hospital spokesman said: “We will be working with Essex Air Ambulance over the coming months to identify an alternative landing site.”