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Updated 10 June 2024

4 June 2024

Air ambulances will find it easier to land at night in Dorchester, thanks to new and improved lighting from the HELP Appeal - the only charity in the country dedicated to funding hospital helipads.

Dorset County Hospital’s helipad has temporarily moved to the Army Reserve Centre on Poundbury Road to allow enabling works and construction of the new Emergency Department and Critical Care Unit to take place.

The site, just a short distance from DCH, is already used by military helicopters and includes a large field with easy access for crews to transfer patients to an ambulance and be taken to the hospital, less than three minutes away.

The HELP Appeal donated £13,500 to DCH and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) for new and improved lighting which will make it easier for pilots to identify the landing site and arrive and depart safely.

Mario Carretta, Unit Chief Pilot at Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, said: “The new light installation will make flying into the Army Reserve Centre much easier and safer. Although we use night vision goggles as an aid to flying at night, there is a regulatory requirement for hospital landing sites to be lit during the hours of darkness.

“These solar-powered lights operate automatically between dusk and dawn, and as well as meeting the regulatory requirements, they will improve our situational awareness by making the landing site stand out from amongst the lights of the surrounding streets and buildings.”

Robert Bertram, Chief Executive of the HELP Appeal, said: “Despite these major building works, it doesn’t change the fact that seriously ill patients still need specialist hospital treatment as quickly as possible after landing in an air ambulance to give them the best possible chance. We had no hesitation in funding this project to ensure it is business as usual.”

Tristan Chapman, Programme Director at Dorset County Hospital, added: “We are very grateful to the HELP Appeal for their donation and the C Company 6 RIFLES for allowing us to use the Army Reserve Centre as a landing site for air ambulances while we build our new Emergency Department and Critical Care Unit. Their ongoing support means that patients arriving by air ambulance continue to be transferred to our hospital quickly for ongoing care.”

The new Emergency Department and Critical Care Unit is part of the Government’s New Hospital Programme and will give the Trust the space and facilities to care for more people in the future. The build includes a new rooftop helipad, which is being funded by a £2million grant also from the HELP Appeal and will allow patients to be transferred via a lift directly into the hospital.

The Army Reserve Centre will continue to be used as a helicopter landing site until construction of the new building and helipad is completed in 2027.

Helicopter at night on field surrounded by lights
The new lights in operation on the Army Reserve Centre helipad site.