Published: 06:00, 11 December 2019
| Updated: 15:47, 11 December 2019
The Princess Royal is visiting Kent today - just weeks after the county received a visit from her mother, the Queen.
Princess Anne made her way to Maidstone Hospital and Medway Maritime Hospital this lunchtime to formally open a much-anticipated new helipad.
Her Royal Highness arrived in Maidstone just before 12:45pm where she formally opened a new helipad while in Medway, she is due to visit the emergency department and maternity unit.
The air ambulance will be the main user of the landing site, but it can also be used by other emergency services and 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.
The Helicopter Emergency Landing Pads Appeal (HELP) donated £300,000 to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, to build the all-weather pad at the rear of the oncology unit.
Construction work started in April this year and finished on October 10.
The visit also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex.
The Princess Royal was welcomed by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells chief executive, Miles Scott, and Chairman, David Highton, before meeting representatives from clinical services and departments, including cancer and emergency medicine, occupational therapists and the West Kent Dementia Partnership.
Guests then moved to the helipad where Princess Anne was introduced to representatives from The HELP Appeal, the trust’s helipad response team and air ambulance staff.
She then formally opened the helipad by unveiling a plaque andhelped staff lower a commemorative time capsule before departing.
David Welch, chief executive of Air Ambulance Kent Surrey and Sussex said: “The helipad is really important for us and very important for patients, it allows us to access the hospital 24 hours a day by helicopter and that makes a huge difference.
"It also helps us to rendezvous with land ambulances who have critically injured patients so they can get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.
"We are the only air ambulance in the country that flies 24 hours a day.
"It was really special and it meant a lot to everyone, staff, volunteers and our patients as well she is very knowledgeable and genuinely interested in the work that we do so they had a good chat and it was a real privilege to meet her.
"It has been in use several time already and it will continue to be used over Christmas and into the New Year."
Afterwards, the princess will go to Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham.
She will be touring the maternity ward as well as the emergency department at the hospital in Windmill Road to meet staff and patients.
The Princess Royal is a patron of The Royal College of Midwives and The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, so will be looking at improvements made by staff at Medway's award-winning unit.
The visit comes shortly after Her Majesty The Queen attended the Royal British Legion Industries Village in Aylesford last month.
Before departing, the Princess Royal will be presented with flowers by long serving staff member Shirley Hollinshead, who this year celebrated 53 years' continuous NHS service.