Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited Maidstone Hospital this week to officially open its new helipad.

The HELP Appeal, which is the only charity in the country dedicated to funding hospital helipads, donated £300,000 to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust to build the all-weather pad at the rear of the oncology unit. It replaces the temporary site, which was often water-logged.

The helipad will help increase the life chances of seriously ill or injured patients being brought to Maidstone Hospital for treatment or flown from the hospital to specialist centres elsewhere in the country for treatment. Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex will be the main user but it can also be used by other emergency services as well as charities such as the Children’s Air Ambulance which provides a medical transfer service for critically ill babies and children up to the age of 18.

Prior to unveiling a plaque to mark the official opening of the helipad, Her Royal Highness was introduced to representatives from HELP Appeal, the Trust’s helipad response team as well as crew members from Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex which is celebrating 30 years of service this year.

During her visit Her Royal Highness also met with the Trust’s Chief Executive Miles Scott, Chairman David Highton, as well as representatives from the hospital’s clinical services and departments, including Cancer and Emergency Medicine and Occupational Therapists, and the West Kent Dementia Partnership, during which she spoke to them about their achievements.

Shirley Hollinshead, who this year celebrated 53 years’ continuous NHS service, presented Princess Anne with a bouquet of flowers as a thank you for visiting the hospital.

Miles Scott, Chief Executive at MTW NHS Trust, said: “We are extremely grateful to Her Royal Highness for taking the time to open the new helipad at Maidstone Hospital which was only made possible thanks to the generosity of HELP Appeal.

“To be able to offer a landing pad 24 hours a day seven days a week so we can work in partnership with other agencies to ensure our patients receive the best possible care at the right time in the right place is priceless.

“It was also a fantastic opportunity for The Princess Royal to meet some of our wonderful staff and for her to hear first-hand from those working on the frontline about the amazing work they do every day to ensure we provide outstanding care to our patients.”

Robert Bertram, Chief Executive of the HELP Appeal, said: “As we rapidly approach the shortest day of the year when there will be just eight hours of daylight, it’s fantastic to see Maidstone Hospital having a helipad, which not only enables patients to have immediate access to the Emergency Department, but is also fully illuminated, allowing air ambulances to land during darkness hours for the first time with critically ill patients.

“We never hesitated for a second to fund this helipad, as we knew the difference it could make to the people of Maidstone, Kent and beyond. I am delighted that its significance is being recognised by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal today.”

Helen Bowcock, Chair of Trustees Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex, said: “We have been working closely with Maidstone Hospital for nearly 30 years and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is a key partner of ours.

“The opening of this helipad further strengthens that relationship and provides us with the infrastructure to provide a round-the-clock, enhanced service that will help save lives and improve patient outcomes.

“We are grateful to the HELP Appeal for their funding and were honoured to be present at the official opening of the new facility by The Princess Royal.”