IRISH health chiefs have been asked to consider a charity-funded air ambulance service to fly serious ill children to the UK for transplants.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) advised the Department of Health to change its aviation rules after crews were forced to stop flying children to British hospitals earlier this year.
HIQA’s deputy chief executive Dr Mairin Ryan said there was “deep concern” among the families of seriously ill Irish children about how their loved ones are supposed to travel to Britain for transplants.
"We realise the deep concern that the families of children awaiting heart and liver transplants must feel about how their loved ones can travel to the UK for a transplant," she said in a new report.
"We believe that the advice we have provided to the minister and the HSE offers the best possible solutions in both the immediate future and in the longer term.”
Irish helicopter crews stopped flying patients to Britain on September 5 as new aviation rules dictated they should only work 12-hour shifts.
A private air ambulance crew has been based at Dublin Airport on standby to cover the shortfall.
HIQA said 75 percent of ‘priority one’ transfers occur during the night – giving transplant patients between just four and six hours to get to a hospital after a donor organ becomes available.
In its report for the Department of Health, HIQA said the short-term solution should be for a private firm to deliver a dedicated night-time service.
However, the watchdog said its preferred long-term solution is for the Irish Coast Guard or the Air Corps to be given the role.
Last year, Irish Coast Guard crews flew eight patients to hospitals in Britain – including seven children for a liver transplant and one for a combined liver and kidney transplant.
They also flew three of 2017’s first four transfers before September’s limitations were introduced.
The restrictions – brought in as an IAA investigation continues into March’s tragic Rescue 116 crash off the coast of Mayo – stopped crews ‘doubling up’ to work 24-hour shifts.