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A public consultation for the new service was launched earlier this year.
“While we have not been formally contacted regarding the establishment of the new Northern Ireland helicopter emergency medical service, we have had very preliminary discussions with the DHSSPS [Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland] and welcome further meetings on future potential cross-border co-operation,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health told the Medical Independent (MI).
A spokesperson for the DHSSPS, speaking before the UK referendum decision to leave the EU, said that the development of the HEMS would be “generally seen as an area for potential collaboration between the two services in the future”.
“Planning for the establishment of the North’s first HEMS is now underway by the Department of Health and its arm’s-length bodies,” the spokesperson said.
“The opportunity for the Health Minister to engage with her southern counterpart on this issue has not yet arisen, however, this has been discussed by previous Ministers and is generally seen as an area for potential collaboration between the two services in the future. The Department’s current focus is on establishing and developing the service in the North in the first instance.
“The Minister is likely to say more on this when planning has progressed sufficiently.”
The DHSSPS spokesperson added that the vast majority of submissions during the recent period of public consultation called for collaboration across the border.
“The vast majority of consultees supported collaboration with other services after the establishment of the HEMS, including the Emergency Aeromedical Support (EAS) service based in Athlone, in order to maximise service coverage,” the spokesperson said.
“The Department’s response to the consultation stated that there is potential for the development of an operational partnership with the EAS at a further stage of HEMS development, which would secure service coverage for the west of the island.”