Work was today underway to build a £3.5 million helipad on the roof of King’s College hospital.
The breakthrough, after years of fundraising, was heralded as a major advance for trauma patients among the 5.5 million population of south-east London and Kent.
When the helipad is completed later this year, helicopters will land on the roof of the hospital’s 10-storey Ruskin Wing – reducing “landing to resus ward” times to five minutes.
At present, helicopters have to land in Ruskin Park, with critically ill patients transferred by road ambulance to the hospital, in Denmark Hill – which takes 25 minutes.
Donations have come from the County Air Ambulance Trust’s HELP (Helicopter Emergency Landing Pads) appeal, which raised £2 million, the helipad’s Time is Life fundraising scheme and the hospital trust.
Robert Bertram, chief executive of the HELP Appeal, said: “When a critical injury or accident takes place, every second is vital. The new helipad will help to ensure that patients get the fastest access to the often life-saving treatment they require. It will save many lives.”
Paul Henderson, 64, a retired teacher from Deal in Kent, was transferred to King’s by the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance in April last year. He had suffered a fractured skull and contusions to the front of his head after colliding with a cyclist when crossing the road.
The 41-minute flight to King’s from Deal probably saved his life. He was put in an induced coma, but eventually came round. He is now fully recovered.
He said: “I am lucky to be alive. I can’t remember much about the accident, apart from waking up in King’s. I’m now back to normal, and so grateful for the care I received from the medical teams.”
The helipad is being manufactured off-site and will be lifted into place, 50m above the ground, using one of the UK’s largest cranes. The pad will be made of 75,000kg of aluminium, supported by approximately 100 tonnes of steel.
It will be the third hospital helipad in London. Others are already operating at the Royal London hospital, in Whitechapel, and St George’s hospital, in Tooting.
Rob Bentley, director of trauma at King’s, said: “King’s is already a Major Trauma Centre but with the addition of a helipad on the hospital site we will bring truly world-class trauma facilities to this part of London.”