SENIOR figures have put forward an “alternative solution” in the in the absence of the Portland coastguard helicopter as rescue times from other bases are called into question.

Concerns were raised about the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) claim of reaching all casualties within an hour after a sick scuba diver waited 90 minutes to be rescued just 24hours after the Portland helicopter was axed.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax and trauma consultant Dr Ian Mew have written to the maritime minister John Hayes to suggest new options as Mr Drax argues the current travel targets are “not satisfactory”.

They want to keep details under wraps while sensitive issues are dealt with.

A report from the SAR-H project team- which was used at the basis for the closure decision in 2011- measures all travel time from the nearest base in Lee-on-Solent, which may not always be available.

The sick scuba diver was eventually rescued by the Cardiff helicopter which, the report states, will take 35 minutes to 60 minutes to reach an incident after take-off.

All travel time data in the report only accounts for in-flight time and discounts the time taken from receiving the call to take-off which can take anything from 15 to 45 minutes.

Mr Drax said: “What concerns me is that the MCA’s one-hour target is from when the helicopter is physically tasked not from when the call comes in.

“The diver was kept waiting for 90 minutes in a great deal of pain which is not satisfactory. If the helicopter came from Portland it would have taken 10 minutes. I sent an urgent letter to the minister on Monday with our proposed alternative and I am waiting to hear back.”

The SAR report also explains that the regularly used statement “does not increase the risk to public loss of life overall”, is defined as the average response time to all incidents from the new super-hubs.

The same report also states the combined impact of closing the Portland and Boulmer bases would increase response time by an average of 13 minutes and a maximum of 36 minutes, presuming the helicopter travels from the closest base.

Consultant in anaesthetics and intensive care at Dorset County Hospital Dr Ian Mew said: “When we did an analysis of the data we discovered that the Portland coastguard helicopter was called 25 to 30 times at the same time as the Lee-on-Solent helicopter was tasked. If there are two incidents at the same time and only one helicopter available then only one person can be rescued.

“We have tried, and failed, to save the Portland helicopter but now it is gone I am keen to change tack and work with the Department for Transport and the MCA to deliver a long-term solution that protects patients.

“I am quite positive there is a solution but it is something that will need to go through the proper channels and will take a little while to instigate.”

The scuba diver who had to wait 90 minutes to be rescued the day after a coastguard helicopter service was axed said it was ‘inevitable’ someone will die due to its loss. Marcus Blatchford, who was suffering from the bends, was winched off a dive boat in the sea off Portland by a rescue aircraft that had to be sent from South Wales 75 miles away.

Mr Blatchford said: “Bring the helicopter back as soon as possible. I do think it is inevitable that someone will die because of the Portland helicopter not being there.