SICK children who need to be transported from Basingstoke to the paediatric intensive care unit at Southampton General Hospital are to benefit from a ‘flying intensive care unit’.

The Children’s Air Ambulance Charity, which has its own specially-adapted helicopter, has lent its support to the Southampton unit, and children from around Hampshire and surrounding counties will be transported to the unit by the helicopter.

The flying ambulance is kitted out with intensive care equipment and can dramatically reduce the travelling time for patients who would otherwise be taken to the hospital by road.

Andy Williamson, chief executive of the Children’s Air Ambulance Service, said: “We are a national charity and normally do not deal with accident and emergencies except for the planned transportation of children and babies suffering from life-threatening injuries or illnesses such as severe meningitis, major organ failure and serious burns, as well as those in a coma, suffering from trauma injuries, or those who have complications after birth.

“Wherever we’re needed, whenever we’re needed, we’ll be there for children when they need us most.”

The charity has announced that Melanie Walcott, wife of Arsenal and England striker Theo Walcott, is a patron.

Melanie said: “I am proud to be asked to be the patron for the Children’s Air Ambulance Service and the work they undertake.

“I look forward to working with Andy Williamson and his team to help this charity grow into a truly national service so that every child on the UK mainland can have access to the service should they need it.”