Dr. John Hinds – Northern Ireland Road Racing ‘Flying doctor’
John Hinds (21 March 1980 – 4 July 2015) was a Northern Irish doctor known in Northern Ireland as one of the “flying doctor” in Irish Road Racing. John was a counsel anaesthetist at Craigavon Area Hospital and was known for his contributions to high-speed motorcycle trauma medicine, was trained in pre-hospital trauma care and voluntarily contributed medical support at motorcycle races in Northern Ireland and several races in the South.
It is a voluntary role which Dr Hinds gives up his spare time to fulfil and which he assets largely out of his own pocket. A dedicated trauma specialist, he sees his life-saving role at race meetings as a labour of love and an opportunity to combine his two passions – motorbike racing and medicine. The first responders to accidents in high speed motorcycle races in Northern Ireland are motorcycle doctors like Dr. Hinds. They travel at speeds upwards of 180mph to get to the scene
All the time his life, John pushed for Northern Ireland to get its own air ambulance. Northern Ireland is still the sole region of the UK without this service. Air Ambulances can counter to crisis faster and more effectively than any other type of ambulance, dramatically increasing a person’s chances of survival.
In Manchester, Leeds, London, Scotland, Wales or the Irish Republic, if someone is critically injured, there is an air ambulance team ready to be dispatched. In Northern Ireland, victims are often just driven to the nearest small hospital by ambulance.
Dr John Hinds, from Tandragee, is one of a unique team of just two motorcycle-mounted medics whose job it is to reach injured racers briskly in the site of an accident. In an environment that is a world elsewhere from his day job as an intensive care consultant and anaesthetist at Craigavon Hospital, Dr Hinds is poised to carry out emergency surgery and treatment on the roadside.
Trauma is an area of medicine Dr Hinds used to deal with in his day job at Craigavon Area Hospital. He also used to give lectures in trauma science at the Queen Mary University in London. It is an area of medicine he is quite passionate about and which he believes Northern Ireland lags well behind in, compared to the rest of the world.
He says: “I spend half of my time in Craigavon as an anaesthetist and half of it as a consultant in intensive care. I do deal with a fair amount of trauma; it is a significant part of my job. I’ve always been interested in the fact that Northern Ireland is behind when it comes to trauma care”.
In 2009, he spoke to the BBC about his role. “Hospital medicine has become very much full of protocols and guidelines – out here it’s a wee bit more ‘seat of your pants’ medicine really,” he said.
“And it’s very rewarding to be able to treat people that way: where you don’t have a sterile operating field and you’re not in a resuscitation bay; you’re very often in a ditch somewhere.”
On the evening of 3 July 2015, Hinds was involved in an accident while providing medical cover at a Skerries 100 practice session in Co. Dublin. At John’s funeral his family and friends pressed people to help make John’s dream of a first class trauma network with an emergency helicopter, a reality. Northern Ireland is to get its first dedicated air ambulance service after £4m of funding was granted during the Chancellor’s 2016 budget speech.
A charity was set up in the wake of his death that has helped Northern Ireland secure its first Air Ambulance. It will undoubtedly save hundreds of lives a year as Northern Irelands road network isn’t the best.