THIS picture shows the life-saving plane that will be used to retrieve organs for transplant. Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital team yesterday showed what it was like to undertake the time-critical task of getting a transplant organ for a patient.
The staged mock-up was part of the launch of a specialist aircraft that is being stationed at Samson Aviation Terminal at Newcastle International Airport.
The King Air 200 will be used as a patient transfer and organ retrieval service, helping to reduce NHS transplant costs by a minimum of 22%.
The twin turbo-propelled plane is owned by IAS Medical and it is the first time in two decades an aircraft of this kind has been docked in the region.
Lynne Holt, transplant co-ordinator for the heart and lung programme at the Freeman Hospital, said: “Having a plane like this based in the North East is great.
“It means it is more accessible for hospitals in the region to use and will also save thousands of pounds.
“By having a specialist aircraft dedicated to transplant and patient transfer stationed in Newcastle it will allow us to get teams in the air quicker and we will be able to get a donor organ to hospital as fast as possible.”
Hospitals throughout the country can use the aircraft, but those in the North East will get priority.
From Newcastle, the King Air 200 can reach 95% of UK, Northern Ireland and Eire airports within one hour and the other 5% within an additional 10-20 minutes.
It can accommodate up to eight passengers or can be configured as a dedicated air ambulance carrying a Lifeport medical platform capable of supporting a patient up to and including intensive care unit cases, together with a medical team and companion.
The aircraft is fully pressurised and operates up to 35,000 feet with a cruise speed of 275 mph and a range of 1,000 nautical miles. George Ditchburn, of IAS Medical, said: “We already provide a 24-hour, 365-day national and European patient transfer and organ retrieval service to the National Health Service Blood and Transplant, UK Transport for Transplant and local transplant coordinators.
“This dedicated King Air 200 will offer guaranteed availability and significantly reduce transplant costs to the NHS by a minimum of 22% while providing aviation procurement transparency.”
IAS Medical provides Air Ambulance Patient Flights to the NHS, British Government, insurance companies and private individuals around the world.
The launch of the aircraft coincides with National Transplant Week, and families in the region are being encouraged to have a heart-to-heart discussion about organ donation.
With three people dying every day while waiting for an organ, NHS Blood and Transplant is asking people to think seriously about joining the Organ Donor Register.
In the North East 26% of the population have signed up, meaning 809,184 have become part of the NHS-based register.
A total 30% of the people on the register are 16 to 25.
Last year 3,693 transplants took place in the UK – an increase of 5% compared to previous year.
There are currently 7,974 people in the UK on the active waiting list for an organ transplant.
A further 2,574 people are on the suspended list because they are too ill or unable to receive a transplant at present. This brings the current total needing an organ transplant in the UK to 10,548.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register call 0300 123 2323 or visit www.uktransplant.org.uk