Bosses at a Birmingham hospital are to appoint a fundraising consultant to investigate whether it can raise the £1.3 million a year it needs to re-open a vital helipad.

The facility at the city's children's hospital was closed to air ambulances last June after the hospital ran out of funds to maintain it.

Plans to site the facility on the roof of the hospital's new £14.5 million burns unit have already been delayed after building contractors Pearce Group pulled out last month.

It was decommissioned in December after the Civil Aviation Authority introduced new regulations stating there must be three clear routes in and out of landing sites.

A fundraising consultant will be appointed to assess whether enough cash can be found annually to maintain the helipad.

The consultant will look at four fundraising options for the new burns and education unit, two of which exclude the helipad, with targets ranging from £700,000 to £6.8 million a year.

Kevin Stringer, finance director at the Birmingham Children's Hospital Trust, said he had to be sure "the money would be there without fail" to keep the facility.

He said: "Once we have appointed the consultants they will produce a feasibility study into whether we can raise the £1.3 million a year it costs just to keep the helipad.

"It's a highly emotive subject-for the board and the public, but we must make a decision based on the best business case. We have to be sure we can raise that money every year without fail." Mr Stringer explained that although the new unit was being built to accommodate a helipad, cash was needed for fire prevention measures as well as maintenance.

He added: "The original plans for the burns unit remain intact, but the education space has been scaled back, and there are three options available on how to best use that freed-up space.

"But in terms of bricks and mortar, the unit is being constructed so the roof could be used as a helipad. That is not the problem, it's keeping it maintained year after year."

The hospital will also have to make savings of £5.3 million from its £135 million budget after a delay in commissioned funds has left a shortfall at the start of 2005/06.

However the Children's Hospital is not the only NHS trust in the region affected, as new initiatives like Payment By Results, where hospitals are awarded cash relating to treatment given, has complicated the commissioning process.

Bosses at the specialist hospital are now looking at saving money through natural wastage as staff vacancies arise, but Mr Stringer vowed vital frontline services would not be compromised by cuts.

He said: "We are targeting all our departments to identify where we can make savings and where positions become vacant we will look to make savings there.

"Obviously patient care comes first and we do not want to make cuts that will affect the delivery of that care. We have an initial plan that delivers savings of £3.3 million but we still have to find the remaining £2 million."