Dáil Éireann - Volume 541 - 03 October, 2001

Written Answers. - Air Ambulance Service.

443. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in discussions with interested parties regarding the establishment of a helicopter emergency medical service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21255/01]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The provision of an air ambulance service for emergency cases which cannot be safely conveyed by road ambulance continues to be provided by the Air Corps and the marine search and rescue helicopter services of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources.

It is important to acknowledge that an air ambulance service is only one element of an effective emergency medical care system. Proposals for the development of an air ambulance service fall to be considered in the wider context of developments in emergency medical services generally. Any initiative in this area needs to complement other pre-hospital services such as the ambulance service, first responder schemes and other emergency schemes.

The Deputy will be aware that under the Good Friday Agreement a number of areas were identified where North/South co-operation might be developed or enhanced. One of the working groups established to examine the area of planning for major emergencies – the Cross Border Working Group on Pre-Hospital Emergency Care – has proposed the commissioning of a feasibility study on an all-island helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS). Terms of reference have been drafted and it is expected that the process of inviting tenders from consultants to undertake the study will commence shortly. Funding for the study will be met jointly by my Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland.

Since the publication of the report of the Review Group on the Ambulance Service in 1993 approximately £45 million has been provided for the implementation of the report's recommendations with well over half of this funding being provided by this Government.

I remain committed to the continued development of the pre-hospital care system identified both in the review group's findings and in the report of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy Group, Building Healthier Hearts.