Image: Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne (centre, blue suit) stands outside his official residence 11 Downing Street with (on his left) AAA national director Clive Dickin and representatives of the UK helicopter air ambulance charities (AAA)
The UK’s Association of Air Ambulances (AAA) announced on 25 February that it has been tasked with distributing £5 million donated by the Government. The money has been taken from fines levied against banks following the Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) interest rate fixing scandal.
The new funding is in addition to the Libor funds already allocated to three air ambulance charities, and also follows the announcement of relief of VAT on air ambulance charities and aviation fuel which was announced in 2014. Combined, these changes will be worth in excess of £15 million over the next five years, said the AAA, and will potentially equate to 800 more patients per year being saved.
The funding was confirmed on 24 February at a meeting between Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the AAA, whose charity will pass the money on to each of the 20 local helicopter air ambulance charities, including those not currently members of the AAA.
Osborne commented: “From enabling the fantastic air ambulance services to extend their flying hours, to helping build brand new specialist headquarters, this funding will play a vital role on helping to save hundreds of lives every year. It is absolutely right that we use funds from those who demonstrated the worst values to reward those who demonstrate the best, like our hard-working air ambulance crews.”
Each charity will receive £250,000 from the fund, which will contribute to a range of projects across the UK enhancing the lifesaving services provided by the local air ambulance charities.
Clive Dickin, AAA National Director, commented: “The entire air ambulance community is delighted with today’s announcement by the Chancellor. This funding – the result of extensive lobbying by the AAA – is excellent news for air ambulance charities and patients across the UK. Each of the 20 charities will use the funds in ways that will increase availability, types of activity, and overall patient care at a local level and this donation will ultimately help air ambulances across the UK to save many lives.”
The charities outlined their plans for the funds as follows.
Cornwall Air Ambulance: “Our operations and fundraising headquarters opened in 2012. We now plan to extend the facility to provide extra space for volunteers and reinstate our community space. This plan is aligned to our strategy to 2019, to achieve strength in income to provide a future third-generation helicopter standard for Cornwall.”
Devon Air Ambulance: “[We will] put any LIBOR funds received towards equipment required to meet regulatory requirements for night operations. Indicative costs, including certification/installation: night vision goggles £200,000, wire detection system £75,000, additional external lights £20,000, NVG-compatible aircrew jackets £3,000, power line overlay for digital mapping £1,000."
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance: “In 2016, [we will take] delivery of a new helicopter. To enable the full utilisation of capabilities offered by the new aircraft, we wish to construct and equip a facility to support clinical training, night operations planning and crew support facilities for extended hours of operations.”
East Anglian Air Ambulance: “Our Cambridge base meets CQC guidelines, but it severely lacks operational and training space, so we hope to relocate to a new purpose-built base. A grant of £250,000 will enable [us] to create an integrated learning environment to deliver best practice, effective medicine and highly skilled medical teams.”
Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust: “[The charity] to invest in the expansion and refurbishment of its North Weald Airbase. A grant of £250,000 will ensure the development of an effective clinical training facility and enable the Trust to plan towards a 24/7 service for the benefit of patients across the region.”
Great North Air Ambulance: “A reserve fund is to be created to support future accommodation needs for the charity as current leases expire in 2018.”
Great Western Air Ambulance Charity: “Despite receiving funds from LIBOR, GWAAC is still under financial pressure and requires a new base in the middle 2016. As a result, GWAAC would use the £250,000 to design and build a fit-for-purpose visitor centre and new air operations base, plus upscale our operation in 2015 to carry blood.”
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance: “HIOWAA are already committed to introducing night HEMS capability and as an integral part of our preparations will purchase facilities and equipment at our Thruxton airbase to better support our HEMS teams in the introduction of night HEMS. These include new buildings for clinical equipment storage and HEMS team preparation, training and debrief areas, and enhanced facilities for night helicopter operations planning.”
Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance: “KSSAAT seeks funding for a purpose-built, hi-fidelity training suite to allow clinicians to practise and hone vital skills required for the most complex pre-hospital interventions needed by victims of major trauma to maximise patients’ chances of survival and quality of survival. The cost is in the region of £300k.”
Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance: “The charity airbase facilities at RAF Waddington no longer fully meet current requirements. A 2015 capital project is to erect a new modular building, to full CQC requirements, adjacent to our existing hangar, thereby also improving operational response times. The cost of the actual building structure is approx. £250K.”
London’s Air Ambulance: “To assist in the lease/acquisition and as required the fit-out of a new premises from which the charity HQ can continue to operate in order to maintain the charity fundraising activities and to provide training facilities for medics and doctors to continue the operational viability of London’s Air Ambulance service.”
Magpas Helimedix: “These much needed funds will enable Magpas to expand our hours of operation from 18 hours a day to 24 hours a day. The Charity would recruit, equip and train new doctors and paramedics to fulfil a 24/7 rota, ensuring patients get the best care night and day.” Midlands Air Ambulance Charity: “[We] will use funds received from the LIBOR fines to build a specialist centre at our Tatenhill site. This new building will replace the current temporary buildings, allowing enhanced planning, training and a vastly enhanced centre for our north Midlands crew.”
North West Air Ambulance Charity: “NWAA wishes to invest this gift to the development of facilities to house a pre-hospital emergency medical education and training centre. This centre would enable enhanced learning and development, increasing the capability of NWAA Charity to deliver even higher exceptional patient care.”
Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance: “SCAA is the UK's youngest charity air ambulance which operates nationally across Scotland, covering the largest area of any charity air ambulance. This capital equipment [will] increase availability, enhance training and contribute to clinical standards. Additionally, it [will] provide essential equipment to allow the crews to operate in the harsh Scottish climate.”
Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance: “TVACAA needs to carry out essential upgrading of its operational accommodation and training facilities for its crews to enable the introduction of full night HEMS operation in the second half of 2015. Along with the procurement of specialist medical equipment, the total project costs are estimated at £300,000.”
Welsh Air Ambulance Charitable Trust: “[We will] use the £250,000 … towards the fit-out of our new hangar, fuel bowser and head office facilities proposed in South Wales.”
Wiltshire Air Ambulance: “Following separating its operation from the police aircraft, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance can no longer operate during the hours of darkness. Funds received from LIBOR will directly go towards re-establishing this vital night activity. Funds will be spent on equipment and training of personnel in night operations with night vision goggles.”
Yorkshire Air Ambulance and The Air Ambulance Service said that charity trustees will confirm a project by March 2015.