Robert Bertram, Chief Executive of the HELP Appeal – the only charity in the country dedicated to funding hospital helipads – has presented a cheque for £250,000 to Ian Smith, Chairman of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. This latest donation brings the total amount given to £2.25 million of the Help Appeal’s £2.75 million pledge to King’s College Hospital Charity. This money has helped to build a lifesaving helipad with a Deck Integrated Fire Fighting System (DIFFS) at King’s College Hospital’s Denmark Hill campus.
King’s College Hospital is one of four major trauma centres in London, serving a population of 4.5 million people from South East London to the Kent coast. Over the past year and a half, there have been 362 landings on the helipad, which is an average of four landings every week. Previously helicopters had to land in Ruskin Park and then move patients to a road ambulance, adding 25 minutes to the emergency transfer. In the first year after the helipad opened, 162 patients were brought to King’ by air ambulance.
Last October, 40-year-old Tom Locke, a father of three from Hythe in Kent, fell three storeys from the roof of his house while trying to remove nesting pigeons from behind solar panels. He fractured every bone in his face, as well as sustaining an open femoral fracture, a fractured wrist and forearm, a dislocated elbow and severe haemorrhaging.
After his partner, Lydia Clark, described Tom’s injuries to the 999 call operator the decision was made to send an air ambulance, which arrived around 20 minutes later. Tom was intubated at the scene and arrived on the helipad at King’s around 25 minutes later. Following stabilisation in the Emergency Department, Tom was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and the next day had his femur fixed, wrist set and was given a tracheostomy so he could be woken up. He has since undergone 10 hours of facial reconstruction and has made a good recovery.
Tom said: “Without the helipad I probably would have died, so I’m so grateful for King’s and the air ambulance crew for saving my life. You really don’t realise how crucial it is until you need it – thankfully my boys still have their daddy.”
Lydia added: “Without the helipad Tom may not have made it in time. This whole experience has had such a dramatic effect on all our lives, and thanks to the helipad and team at King’s our family has been kept together. Looking back I can see how much difference the extra minutes the helipad saves can make – the traffic near King’s was so bad on the day that Tom was brought in that I ended up getting out of the car and running to the hospital.”
King’s College Hospital’s helipad was the first on the mainland to have a DIFFS installed in 2016. Previously the state of the art system had only ever been used in offshore oil rigs. DIFFS incorporates a series of nozzles which are integrated into the helipad and spray water and foam. It can put out a fire within 15 seconds, allowing air ambulance crew to continue treating and transferring a critically ill patient to the emergency department as quickly as possible. DIFFS has allowed the hospital to reduce staffing costs with firefighting teams no longer required to fight a fire. These savings have been allocated to other lifesaving services.
Robert Bertram said: “We are delighted that the HELP Appeal can continue to fulfil its pledge to King’s College Hospital Charity. We are hugely grateful to the generosity of the public as we don’t receive any funding from the government or national lottery. It’s great to see how our donations have made such a difference to a significant number of critically ill patients who’ve been rescued from across the South of England.”
Ian Smith, Chairman of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust added: “Thanks to the new helipad at King’s College Hospital, more critically ill patients can receive the urgent care they need quicker. We are extremely grateful to the HELP Appeal and its supporters for funding this project to help King’s deliver life-saving care as quickly as possible.”