HM Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter team in Stornoway support NHS Western Isles

HM Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter team in Stornoway is providing additional resilience to the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting NHS Western Isles in the transfer of vulnerable patients on Barra.

The helicopter has been sent in response to requests from the NHS to move those people most at risk of serious illness after testing positive for the virus, to Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway. This ensures they receive the urgent care they need as quickly as possible.

This is in addition to the coastguard aircraft’s search and rescue response duties – January 2021 was the busiest month on record for the Stornoway base, since it was opened in 2013. 

Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard, said: “Her Majesty’s Coastguard will always be there to support our emergency service partners, wherever and in whichever way we can.

“The Stornoway helicopter is making a huge difference in transferring those patients who need help the most, to ensure that they get the care they require as quickly as possible. On the ground, our Coastguard Rescue Teams in Barra, Lochboisdale, Stornoway and Harris are also playing their part, by using coastguard drivers and vehicles to assist in the transportation of completed COVID-19 tests between Barra and Stornoway. 

“We are proud of the efforts of the helicopter crew and our staff and volunteers in making a real difference during this difficult and challenging time.”

Simon Fraser, Chief Pilot at the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter base at Stornoway, said: “All of the crew who have been involved with this aircraft over the past seven years or so take enormous pride in their work and the importance of supporting our local communities with round-the-clock, lifesaving work on the Western Isles and at other coastal locations in Scotland.

“As an islander, I share the same understanding as the rest of the community that the helicopter has a key role to play in so many ways. Our team are always committed to serving and helping local people.”

Gordon Jamieson, NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, said: “NHS Western Isles owes a huge debt to HM Coastguard service who are key members of our Pandemic Response Group. From their search and rescue helicopter team to their groundstaff and volunteers, all have been invaluable in the Western Isles’ response to COVID-19 from day one.

"The service continues to provide expertise and valuable support during this pandemic, including assisting us with the delivery of vaccines, assistance at Vaccination Clinics, and most importantly in the airlift of vulnerable COVID-19 patients from Barra to Stornoway. This multi-agency working has been critical and our partners in the Coastguard have been willing, enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with. We are very grateful to them and thank them for their ongoing support and input.”

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