All heavy helicopters – including Coastguard and Royal Navy rescue helicopters – will land at “an alternative site” at Derriford Hospital, although the exact location has still not been publicly disclosed.
The ban on larger helicopters was originally announced by University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust on March 5, the day after 87-year-old Jean Langan died, being thrown to the ground and sustaining a fatal head injury.
A spokesperson for the Trust confirmed that the heliport, built in 2015 to allow day and night landing of large and small rescue helicopters, “remains open to receive casualties”.
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They added: ‘However, larger aircraft such as the Coastguard helicopter land elsewhere in Plymouth and patients from these aircraft are then transported from Plymouth to Derriford Hospital by road ambulance.
On March 6, an HM Coastguard helicopter landed on the Hoe promenade, but at this stage HM Coastguard has offered no explanation to PlymouthLive as to why.
However, a spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: “A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) has been issued by the Hospital Trust to only allow helicopter landings under five tonnes at the Derriford Hospital Helicopter Landing Site while the AAIB [Air Accident Investigation Branch] investigation is ongoing.
“The Coastguard helicopter, which weighs over five tonnes, will land at an alternate site nearby until the AAIB’s investigation is completed.”
Previously, Plymouth Airport, Marjon University and Hoe Drive were all used when large helicopters were unable to land at Derriford Hospital for various reasons.
Plymouth Airport has now been excluded since its closure and the area previously used at Marjon University is believed to be currently occupied. At this time, the MCA has not been able to confirm where the designated “alternate site” is located.
In 2015, shortly before the new heliport was laid, emergency medicine consultant Dr Anthony Kehoe told the BBC that there was a real need for the heliport to be able to accommodate both large and small rescue helicopters, adding this diversion to a secondary. the site can add around 30 minutes, which can be critical at this time.”
The Helicopter Emergency Landing Pads (HELP) Appeal contributed £850,000 towards the construction of the heliport, including £900,000 from Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust capital funding.
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