SERIOUSLY ill patients in the North West could now see themselves with a speedier 999 helicopter response as emergency calls in the region are being monitored by the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS).

The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and GNAAS have worked together to allow clinical staff in the air ambulance service to directly access emergency calls from their base. This will allow them to quickly decide if the patient could benefit from helicopter assistance.

It also means the rotors could be turning even sooner, saving precious time that could mean the difference between life and death.

Andy Mawson, director of operations at GNAAS, said: “The arrangement was a vital step in ensuring the services of the aircrew medics are available for those who need them the most.”

GNAAS crews can respond by helicopter or rapid response vehicle and are able to deliver advanced drugs and techniques normally reserved for the hospital.

“It’s an extra set of eyes to make sure we are getting to the right patients in the fastest possible time," added Andy. "Essentially we’re working in support of the teams within the NWAS control centre, it’s a great example of collaborative working.”

A similar arrangement is in place in the North-East, where the charity also operates an aircraft from Durham Tees Valley Airport, near Darlington. It is from here that the ambulance service link ups are monitored alongside mountain rescue calls on a bank of screens.

Peter Ballan, EOC Sector Manager for NWAS, said: “We’ve already started to see the benefits of this new way of working as it helps us to get our patients the most appropriate care in the most effective way. We are looking forward to working more closely with GNAAS in the future.”