Scottish charity promises 2013 air ambulance launch

Scotland is in line for its first and only charity-funded air ambulance helicopter. The life-saving venture has been given the green light by the Scottish Government health minister and the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), which will deploy the new aircraft when it comes into service. Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) announced on 27 November 2012 that it will work to raise the funds necessary to launch a helicopter service early in 2013.

Scotland is in line for its first and only charity-funded air ambulance helicopter. The life-saving venture has been given the green light by the Scottish Government health minister and the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), which will deploy the new aircraft when it comes into service.

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) announced on 27 November 2012 that it will work to raise the funds necessary to launch a helicopter service early in 2013.

South of the border, a number of charitable trusts across England and Wales currently operate charity-funded helicopter air ambulances, while in Scotland the government funds two helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft based in Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen and operated by SAS. The SCAA proposal is for an additional helicopter air ambulance, supplementing the work of the SAS in delivering a front-line emergency response.

SCAA chairman John Bullough said the charity had identified an opportunity to work with the SAS to enhance the life-saving capabilities of Scotland’s air ambulance resources: “Scotland is justifiably proud of her Government-funded air ambulance service, and SCAA can offer the people of Scotland an additional helicopter and crew resource which will add flexibility and extra capacity to the service. This will be the people’s air ambulance, funded by the public and supported by communities the length and breadth of the country who recognise the value of fast-reaction medical air support in the face of mishap, illness and tragedy.”

Alex Neil, the Scottish Government’s secretary for health and well-being, commented: “The Scottish Ambulance Service air ambulance is the only publicly funded air ambulance service in the UK and it continues to providing a vital service for patients across Scotland. However, I welcome the work that is being done by this charity to help enhance the provision of air ambulances across the country. In a country like Scotland with its island, remote and rural areas, it is important that we work collaboratively with partners to support community resilience. It is important that patients can rely on the provision of a safe, responsive and high-quality air ambulance service, and the funds raised by this charity will help to continue to deliver a world-class, future-proof service that has been specifically designed to benefit patients throughout Scotland.”

The plan is for the new air ambulance to be based at Perth Airport at Scone and to be tasked by the SAS alongside their own aircraft. SAS Chief Executive Pauline Howie explained: “We have worked closely with the trustees of SCAA to bring their plans to fruition and welcome the integration of an additional resource which will work alongside the existing fleet, adding flexibility and resilience to Scotland’s air ambulance service. The SCAA helicopter will be crewed by Scottish Ambulance Service paramedics and tasked in exactly the same way as our own air ambulance helicopters. We look forward to having SCAA work alongside us and will now move to recruit and train paramedics for the role and help the charity to develop operational protocols from its base at Perth airport to be fit for purpose, in accordance with all aspects of clinical and operational governance.”

John Bullough explained that around £1.5 million would be needed to fund the SCAA helicopter each year: “We will be looking to corporations, trusts, businesses, communities and the public in general in the weeks, months and years to come to keep this additional air resource flying. In an ideal world, there would be numerous helicopter air ambulances flying hope and help across Scotland. SCAA needs everyone’s support to launch the country’s first and provide additional aid where it’s needed most.”

Image: Artist’s impression of an ambulance helicopter in SCAA branding (courtesy SCAA)