The helipad at Raigmore Hospital is to get a major upgrade at a cost of just under £600,000, paid for through two charitable donations.
The much-used “lifesaving” facility sees more than 500 flights a year with helicopters arriving and departing being quite a common sight.
The upgrade to the landing site will allow the helipad to meet increasing demands from larger and more frequent aircraft use while also bringing it in line with new standards regarding helipad size.
The funding comes from a grant of £480,000 that has been offered to NHS Highland from the HELP Appeal which is the only charity in the country that is dedicated to funding hospital helipads.
A second tranche of funding totalling just under £120,000 comes from the Highland Health Board Endowment Fund after the trustees approved the funding application at their July meeting.
A 12-week programme of works has already been started by Kier Construction with a temporary helipad in place next to the permanent one.
Chief Executive of the HELP Appeal Robert Bertram said: “The upgrade of Raigmore Hospital’s helipad is now our seventh project in Scotland, with hospital helipads in Glasgow, Edinburgh and four Highland and Island helipads under the charity’s belt.
“The HELP Appeal is committed to ensuring that this helipad is fit for purpose, so patients can land safely and quickly, to access the emergency care they urgently need. This is why there was no hesitation in completing the funding required for this much needed upgrade.”
Dr Andrew Rowlands, consultant in emergency medicine and clinical lead for the Emergency Department praised the move saying it will benefit the entire population.
He said: “The helipad at Raigmore Hospital serves as an essential time and lifesaving facility on which the entire population of the Highlands and Islands may depend, not only due to the enormous area served by NHS Highland but also the distance covered and the remote locations.
“I am very grateful for these donations which will ensure the helipad we have on site is fit for the future.”
Ann Pascoe, chairwoman of the Endowment Committee said: “As trustees, the bottom line for us is that any successful application must clearly demonstrate patient benefit.
“In this case the criteria are fulfilled not only from a Raigmore perspective, but also for those rural patients who have cause to use the hospital. I am delighted we are in a position to fund the helipad application.”