The Charity, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2021, started operating an overnight helicopter from 1 December.
The cost of running the helicopters during the day currently stands at £6.5 million every year. To maintain the overnight helicopter, Wales Air Ambulance must raise an additional £1.5 million, bringing the annual fundraising total required for a 24/7 operation to £8 million.
While the helicopter operation is supported by the people of Wales through charitable donations, the medical capability onboard the aircraft is delivered thanks to a Third Sector-Public Sector partnership between the Charity, Welsh Government and NHS Wales. In place since 2015, this collaboration resulted in the creation of the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service, more commonly known as the ‘Welsh Flying Medics’, which provides pre-hospital critical and emergency medical care across Wales. The aviation part of the service is run by Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore on behalf of the Wales Air Ambulance.
Providing cover for more people with a clinical need
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. 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.”
Pandemic made the service more important than ever
David Gilbert, WAA Chairman, added: “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.”