Questions & Answers

Q: Why do we need a helipad?

When someone suffers a major trauma which involves multiple or serious injury that could result in death or serious disability, the speed with which they can get specialist medical help can be the difference between life and death or between recovering and recovering well. For this reason, major trauma patients need to be transferred to a Major Trauma Centre (MTC). In some situations, the quickest or most appropriate way to get a patient to their local MTC is by helicopter. If you or someone you loved were involved in a serious accident, you would give anything for the best medical attention available.

Q: What is a Major Trauma Centre?

Major trauma means multiple or serious injuries that could result in death or serious disability. These might include serious head injuries, gunshot wounds or road traffic accidents. A Major Trauma Centre (MTC) is a hospital where there are trauma specialists, including orthopaedic, neurosurgery and radiology teams. Care at MTCs is available 24 hours a day. Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital was designated a MTC in April 2013 and serves around 1.8 million people.

Q: What is the Golden Hour and why does it matter?

In emergency medicine, the ‘Golden Hour’ is the term given to the first 60 minutes after a traumatic injury or medical emergency during which there is the highest likelihood that prompt medical treatment will prevent death or improve outcomes. In reality, the term refers to the principle of the importance of rapid intervention in such cases rather than the exact number of minutes elapsed.

Q: What is wrong with the current helipad which serves the Major Trauma Centre at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield?

The current helipad was built more than 20 years ago when helicopters first started being used to bring patients to hospital and predates modern design criteria. There are a number of issues that impact its effectiveness. The main ones are its distance from the Accident & Emergency Department, which means that patients must be transferred to a road ambulance for the final 250m to the MTC. It is also too small for many modern search and rescue aircraft, has no lighting so cannot be used at night and is located in a dip close to trees leading to concerns about aviation safety. All these mean that pilots sometimes choose to fly further afield with their patients.

Q: What is the difference between a primary and secondary helipad?

A primary helipad is the best possible option for trauma and emergency patients since it is located very close (within 100m) to its Major Trauma Centre (MTC) meaning that patients can be transferred from a helicopter to the MTC very quickly. A secondary helipad, as is currently available at the Northern General Hospital, is further away and requires a secondary transport by land ambulance to reach the MTC. The planned helipad would be just 30m from the MTC.

Q: Where will people go if not to Sheffield?

The closest alternative major trauma centres are in Leeds and Hull, Nottingham and Manchester. All represent extra flying time by helicopter and much longer journeys for family rushing to be with their loved ones. Currently Leeds has a rooftop helipad and Hull and Nottingham both have helipads opening in the next few years.

Q: Why not build a helipad on the roof?

A rooftop helipad was considered and rejected because it would take longer to bring patients down in the lift from the roof than the current alternative. Also, helipad regulations require that rooftop helipads have a full fire crew in attendance 24 hours a day. The proposed helipad is both closer to the MTC and more cost effective to operate.

Q: Where will the new helipad be located?

The new helipad will be built adjacent to the Accident & Emergency Department to the left of the ambulance bay. Building the helipad will mean demolishing Sorby House and erecting an elevated structure. It will not affect the current road network. A site plan and architects drawings of the helipad are included in this information pack.

Q: Isn’t it dangerous having helicopters landing in the middle of a busy hospital site?

The new helipad will be elevated, not at ground level, so should not cause any issues for people at ground level. There are strict safety requirements around the siting, building and maintenance of helipads and the safety of everyone in the vicinity has been considered and factored into both the location and design of the helipad.

Q: Will it be very noisy?

Helicopters are not the quietest vehicles and inevitably there will be noise when one is coming in to land or taking off. The elevated design of the helipad and the size of the platform will help to keep the noise levels down a little but yes, it is likely to be noisy when the helipad is in use.

Q: Will it hold up traffic on site?

The location of the helipad means that there should be no disruption to traffic on this busy site either during the construction of the helipad or when it is in operation.

Q: What will a new primary helipad cost?

It will cost £2 million to clear the site, build the new primary helipad and reconfigure the existing ambulance bays. Although a lot of money, this is far less expensive than many other helipads. For example, King’s College London is also raising money for a helipad at the present time and needs £4 million because of the particular challenges of their site.

The County Air Ambulance Trust, which exists to help fund helipads across the country, has already pledged £900,000 and we have another £515,000 pledged from other sources so we are more than 70% there. We need your help to raise the remaining £585,000 and are asking everyone to support our appeal.

Q: Why doesn’t the NHS pay for it?

As you know, NHS finances are very tight and this is a major capital project competing with many other needs across the city’s hospitals. Sheffield Hospitals Charity is the official NHS charity for Sheffield and exists to enhance the care and treatment of patients in our hospitals, and already spends more than £2 million a year on just this. We see building a primary helipad as an important project and decided to launch an appeal to make this happen as soon as possible.

Q: Why does it cost so much, isn’t it just a piece of concrete with an H painted on?

There are strict guidelines about the construction of helipads today so that they are sited safely and can withstand the forces of a helicopter landing on them. The undulating nature of the Northern General Hospital site means that the helipad must be elevated to be at the same level as the emergency department entrance. There are also sophisticated sets of lighting and other controls associated with the helipad that all contribute to the cost.

Q: When will the new helipad be ready?

This depends on how the fundraising goes. We hope, with your help, to start clearing the site in Spring 2015 and for the helipad to be fully operational by Spring 2016.

Q: How many people are brought in by helicopter?

Compared to the numbers carried by land ambulances, the number of patients brought in by helicopter are small. Last year about 120,000 people attended Accident & Emergency (A&E). Of these, about 1,000 were serious enough to be treated by the Major Trauma Centre and about 100 arrived by helicopter. We know, however, that pilots sometimes decide to fly to other centres due to the lack of a primary helipad so would expect the number to increase when the new helipad is operational.

Q: Will there be a lot of disruption while this is being built?

Some disruption is inevitable with any kind of major building project. However, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is very aware of the needs of people visiting the site and especially A&E and are making detailed contingency plans. Previous plans for siting the helipad would have been far more disruptive as they entailed changing the roads. This is no longer the case and therefore, the level of disruption will be minimised.

Q: There are a number of buildings very close to the helipad will they be soundproofed as part of this work?

The closest buildings to the helipad site are the Sorby Wing, Huntsman. The Bev Stokes Day Surgery Building and the Metabolic Bone Unit. There are no plans at present to make changes to these buildings. Most already have double glazing and the infrequency of helicopter landings mean that it is unlikely to present too much of an issue. However this will be monitored and addressed if it becomes an issue.

Q: Am I also paying for the new offices that will be built under the helipad?

No. The appeal is only for the cost of building the helipad itself. The additional offices and car parking built into the platform will cost about £280,000 and will be funded separately.

Q: Are you the same as the Yorkshire Air Ambulance?

No, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance is a separate charity that raises money to keep the air ambulance helicopter flying. This is just one of the services that will be using the helipad to bring in patients. Sheffield Hospitals Charity is the official NHS charity for Sheffield. It spends more than £2 million per year making life better for patients using the city’s hospitals. While the helipad appeal is its current large appeal, it raises money to support patients across Sheffield. For more information see

Q: How can I make a donation to the Sheffield Helipad Appeal?

You can donate in all the usual ways or you may wish to fundraise for the helipad.

Text: to donate £5, please text HOSPITAL10 £5 to 70660   (Texts cost £5 plus network charge. Sheffield Hospitals Charity receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer’s permission. Customer care 0844 847 9800)

Online: visit

Phone: contact Sheffield Hospitals Charity on 0114 271 1351

Post: please send cheques made out to Sheffield Helipad Appeal to Sheffield Helipad Appeal, c/o Sheffield Helipad Appeal, FREEPOST NAT 15348, Sheffield S10 3ZZ.

If you have further questions about the helipad or the appeal, please contact Sheffield Hospitals Charity on 0114 271 1351 or

Please support our appeal to build a new helipad at the Northern General Hospital.
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