IT WILL mean the difference between life and death to hundreds of the most critically ill children across the south.

No matter what time of day or night, this brand new state-of-the-art ambulance will be ready to hit the road to offer specialist lifesaving treatment like never before.

And it has all been made possible thanks to the mammoth fundraising efforts of the Friends of Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), which has raised all of the £115,000 needed to pay for it over the last four years.

It has been hailed as the biggest achievement of the charity and has already driven 4,000 miles in its first month on the road, to save the lives of 25 seriously sick youngsters – proving just how vital it is.

The new retrieval ambulance, which will replace one of the older vehicles the unit has been forced to rely on, transports very ill children fromhospitals across the south, from as far as Plymouth, Cardiff and Oxford, for specialist care at PICU at Southampton General Hospital.

Designed by the PICU team, it is the first time they have been able to have a say in exactly what equipment has gone on board to ensure it offers children the specialist care they need while travelling to hospital, rather than having to wait until they get there. It also offers seats for both parents to travel with their child, instead of just one.

The ambulance has been the aim for the Friends of PICU since it was founded by nurse Rosie Mitchell six years ago. In honour of her work, staff voted to name the ambulance after her.

Rosie said: “This is what we have been aiming for since we started the charity and it is fantastic to see it here ready for the road.

“It will really make the difference between life and death for the south’s most seriously ill children and that is why we worked so hard to raise the money and have the chance to design a built-for-purpose ambulance that suited our every need. But this is an ongoing project and we need to start raising money for the next one, so we hope our supporters will keep up the good work.”

The charity officially launched Rosie at the Matchtech offices in Whiteley, whose staff have helped raise thousands of pounds for the Friends of PICU.

Children’s author Ali Sparkes, charity patron, added: “Often people get involved in fundraising and never get to see the results in a tangible way, but with this it is clear for everyone to see.”