I want to flag the provision of a 12-month pilot project which will see the Air Corps provide dedicated aeromedical support to the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS).

The pilot Emergency Aeromedical Service will have a particular focus on the west of Ireland, and will begin on Monday 4 June.

The Air Corps are providing an EC135 helicopter and personnel to fly and maintain the craft. The National Ambulance Service will be responsible for patient care, which will be provided by National Ambulance Service Advanced Paramedics.

This new pilot service will allow the HSE to determine the extent and type of dedicated aeromedical support needed for the emergency ambulance service in the region in the longer term.

The project has been put in place in a relatively short period of time and I wish to pay tribute to the relevant departments who have worked hard on this.

It is anticipated that the pilot service will be a useful indicator for the future need for the service and as a result will directly impact on services here in County Clare.

We live in a county with geographic challenges and this pilot service will be able to tell us what type of service will best support the people and the Ambulance Service in the region and how we can, realistically, improve response and transit times for seriously ill people, thus improving outcomes for patients.

I know that the results of this 12-month pilot project will be used to inform and shape Government policy and the dispersal of resources and I believe this is an example of good health planning and forward thinking. This service will be of particular benefit to people living in the West Clare peninsula where journey times to Limerick Regional Hospital are excessive. I want to commend Ministers Reilly and Shatter for driving this initiative forward and making it a reality in a short space of time.

Note for Editors

The Eurocopter EC-135 helicopter is classified as a light utility, performance Class 1 helicopter and is the appropriate platform for air ambulance given its size and weight.  It also has a very low noise signature so is widely used in built up areas. In addition to this it can be primed for a quick start-up to get airborne immediately for time critical missions.

For this reason it is the most widely used air ambulance helicopter operating in this role in a number of countries worldwide