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Calls for helipad at new Belford hospital to help with transfer of patients

The site of the new Belford hospital where the helipad would be built
The site of the new Belford hospital where the helipad would be built

A call has been made for a helipad as part of plans for a proposed new hospital for Fort William.

Mountaineers have asked for reassurances that a landing site is being considered after it came to light that it may be ruled out due to the risk of a flight path in the same area as a proposed housing development.

Campaigners say currently patients are often taken to Inverness, Glasgow or Aberdeen rather than staying in Fort William. They say that is not always good for the patient’s health.

However, plans for more than 200 homes on the same site as the proposed hospital,  may hinder the permission, due to flight and landing restrictions being considered in light of the Clutha disaster.

It may be any future permissions for helipads would mean it needed to land away from large housing estates. In Fort William this may mean it has to land at the other end of the town.

An ambulance would then be needed to transfer patients into the new hospital site a mile away.

The hospital is due to built within the next three to five years at the Blar Mhor site in the town.

Members of the Mountain Rescue Teams from across Lochaber and Lochalsh, the Coastguard and individual members of senior staff at the hospital have raised concerns.

Mountaineering Scotland chief executive Officer Stuart Younie said: “Fort William is the nearest hospital to Ben Nevis and to Glen Coe – two hotspots for mountain rescue call-outs – and it would make sense for helicopters to be able to take casualties directly there rather than having to undergo a longer voyage to Inverness or Aberdeen.

“Sometimes specific medical needs might dictate a flight to a more distant hospital, but it would be unfortunate if casualties had to undergo the risk of a longer journey because of the lack of a suitable helipad.”

The site of the new Belford hospital where the helipad would be built

A spokesman for NHS Highland said: “In terms of siting the helipad at the hospital, NHS Highland is currently at the advice-taking stage about possible locations, and it is understood that no decision on the eventual siting(s) can be made until some technical details and restrictions have been resolved.”

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