The Royal Air Force has been conducting a joint exercise with the Isle of Wight NHS Trust in Newport this afternoon (Friday), landing a CH47 Chinook helicopter at Seaclose Park.
At 14:00, the distinctive sound of the Chinook could be heard over the Island as the double-rotor helicopter came into land. This was to test and evaluate longstanding helicopter landing site procedures, should they be needed, transfer patients to the mainland as part of the military’s support of the local NHS Trust during the COVID-19 crisis.
Simulating a real emergency, Ventnor Coastguard Rescue Team secured and marked the landing site in the pouring rain before the RAF touched down, spending around 10 minutes on the ground whilst the patient transfer process was tested.
For many years, Seaclose was the main helicopter landing site for St Mary’s Hospital until a dedicated helipad was built at the hospital site, so procedures are well-established. The last time that a Chinook landed at Seaclose Park was in February 2014 when Undercliff Drive was evacuated. An exercise was also carried out at Sandown Airport in November 2016.
Today’s exercise highlights the options available to both the hospital and other authorities should the need arise. It comes just 2 weeks after the British Army was called in to assist with transforming St Mary’s Hospital to accommodate 200 extra beds.
Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust said:
“Seaclose has for a long time been a part of our plans for patient transfer, and the Ambulance Service is trained and experienced in working alongside helicopter crews.
“We wanted to take the opportunity to test these processes in the light of the current pandemic, although of course, I hope we will not be called upon to use them.
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“With our current close working with military colleagues this exercise has been a useful and reassuring indication that the procedures we have in place are effective and safe, even when working with the Chinook, which is a much bigger aircraft than we normally use.”
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