Press Release

Ministers confirm pilot ‘air ambulance’ service will continue operations

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for Defence Simon Coveney have today marked the 1,000th ‘air ambulance’ mission with a special event at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

The pilot Emergency Aeromedical Support Service (EAS) provides dedicated aeromedical support to the National Ambulance Service (NAS), particularly for patients in the west where land ambulance transit times would not be clinically appropriate.

It was set up as a pilot project between the NAS and the Air Corps, and gets additional support from the Irish Coast Guard.

A working group was established to to look at options for the future delivery of the service. The Group has recommended that a service should be established on a permanent basis. Both Ministers have agreed to seek the endorsement of Government for this proposal and commit to an ongoing review of the operation, so as to sustain a quality service into the future.

Minister Varadkar said: “I congratulate the staff of the Irish Air Corps, the National Ambulance Service, and the Irish Coast Guard for completing 1,000 missions on the 26th May last. This is a great example of what can be achieved by Government Departments working in partnership. This service has been a great step forward in providing access to specialised emergency treatment for patients living in remoter areas.  It is also of significance that one third of the missions have been in response to STEMI heart attacks, and have allowed these patients to be treated in a specialist setting within 90 minutes of diagnosis.”

Welcoming the fact that a Department of Health led Working Group, provided a positive assessment of the quality of the service that has been provided by the Air Corps, Minister Coveney commented, “Whilst the Air Corps has certainly set the benchmark during the pilot phase, and will continue to provide the service at its current level, as would be expected in implementing the report we must and indeed are obliged to keep an open mind as to the many different ways of providing the service and to keep all options under consideration in the context of ensuring a sustainable long term arrangement.”

The role of the Emergency Aeromedical Support Service is to deliver advanced life support patients at the scene by the Advanced Paramedic and attending NAS ground crew.

It also provides rapid transport for patients to the most appropriate hospital that meets the clinical need of the patient.

The service is currently operated jointly by the Irish Air Corps and the National Ambulance Service, with back-up provided by the Irish Coast Guard. It was set up on a pilot basis, to see if there was a need for a dedicated emergency aeromedical service on a permanent basis. It operates alongside the Air Corps’ inter-hospital transfer service which was introduced in 1964 and carries out approximately 100 missions each year.

The Air Corps provide the crews from ‘Number 3 Operations Wing’ to fly and maintain an Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter, which is based at Custume Barracks in Athlone. The National Ambulance Service provides the onboard Advanced Paramedic.

The Emergency Service is tasked by the National Aeromedical Coordination Centre which is based in the National Emergency Operation Centre in Tallaght. The NAS operates a permanent support team for the EAS including a dedicated air medical liaison officer, education and training officer and a number of aeromedical advanced paramedics who crew the aircraft on a rotation basis.