A 24/7 Air Ambulance for Wales
Thanks to the donations from the people of Wales, the Wales Air Ambulance has achieved its ambition to become a 24/7 service.
From this month, the charity, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2021, will start operating an overnight helicopter. The cost of running a 24/7 operation is £8 million, meaning Wales Air Ambulance must raise an additional £1.5 million per annum.
The helicopter operation is supported by the people of Wales through charitable donations, with the medical capability on board delivered thanks to a unique third sector-public sector partnership between the charity, the Welsh Government and NHS Wales.
This collaboration provides pioneering pre-hospital critical and emergency medical care across Wales, effectively taking the emergency department to the patients; a service that proves vital to the survival rate and emergency treatment of many individuals involved in road traffic collisions in Wales.
Made up of senior NHS Wales doctors and critical care practitioners, personnel can deliver critical emergency treatments not routinely available outside the hospital environment. They include surgical procedures, blood transfusions and emergency anaesthesia.
The need for an overnight Wales Air Ambulance was identified following detailed research into life or limb-threatening emergencies that took place outside the services’ operational hours of 8am to 8pm. Over a 12-month period, there were approximately 990 cases of ‘unmet need’ and the demand was most prevalent in South-East Wales.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said, “I am delighted the Wales Air Ambulance Service has achieved its ambition to become a 24/7 service. The introduction of the overnight helicopter will provide emergency air cover to more people who have a clinical need for immediate treatment across Wales.
“It has been a pleasure to see the charity go from strength to strength since its launch on St David’s Day in 2001. The work of the charity and its’ hardworking staff and volunteers has helped Wales to lead the way in best practice, clinical excellence and innovation and contributed to the charity becoming the largest air ambulance operation in the UK.”
WAA Chairman, David Gilbert OBE said: “At the start of the year, we said that our aim was to deliver an overnight helicopter by the end of 2020. There have been many years of planning and preparation with our NHS and aviation partners to make it a reality. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we felt it was more important than ever to provide the people of Wales with a 24/7 lifesaving service.
“In 2021, the Charity will mark 20 years of service and what better way to acknowledge that milestone than the introduction of a 24/7 air ambulance operation. This has been two decades in the making and we would not be here without the people of Wales and their incredible generosity, as well as our staff and volunteers.
“Times are extremely difficult for everybody, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received. We appreciate that some people may not be able to continue their support at the moment, but for those who can, together we can ensure that we maintain a 24/7 service and save lives.”
Professor David Lockey, Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru) National Director, said, “The ED-standard care we deliver at the roadside improves the chances of survival and long-term recovery from trauma and critical illness. Our aim has always been to deliver equity of access to this advanced pre-hospital critical care across Wales, regardless of location or time of day. Our research has shown that there is a need for an extended air ambulance service overnight and we have already experienced this demand since the introduction of our overnight road-based service in July this year.
“This phase of our 24/7 expansion, the introduction of a Wales Air Ambulance Charity helicopter, is a huge step forward for both our service, and for pre-hospital care in Wales. This has been made possible thanks to the ongoing work and partnership between the public and third sectors, as well as the people of Wales who support the charity.”
For more information and for ways to support the Wales Air Ambulance Charity, please visit www.walesairambulance.com/247