The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced on 19 March his budget for 2014, including two provisions for helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) operations. One provision that the chancellor revealed was the lifting of Value Added Tax (VAT) on fuel for air ambulances across Britain, with all air ambulances being eligible for a £65,000 grant for the next five years to cover VAT for fuel. A second measure announced was an injection of £1 million into London’s Air Ambulance (LAA) – the helicopter charity that serves the UK capital –which will help the organisation to operate a second helicopter and cover extended flying hours for one year, during which LAA plans to step up its fundraising activities.
On the £1 million, LAA’s CEO Graham Hodgkin said: “This is fantastic news for the people of London, as it is thanks to their support we are able to celebrate this milestone in the charity’s development. £1 million will give us the opportunity to acquire a second helicopter to give London 100-per-cent air cover during summer daylight hours and maintenance periods. In practical terms, we estimate we’ll now be able to reach a further 400 patients each year by helicopter.”
The move to lift VAT on air ambulance fuel payments followed a petition delivered to the UK government in February 2013, which garnered a total of 154,662 signatures. Various UK air ambulance outfits, including Cornwall Air Ambulance and Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust, have expressed their appreciation of the measure.