The charity’s Founder and first Chair of Trustees was the late Robert Palmer. From his vision, Wales Air Ambulance has grown from a one-helicopter operation based at Swansea Airport to what is now the largest air ambulance operation in the UK, with four helicopters. The aircraft are based across the country, in Caernarfon, Welshpool, Llanelli and Cardiff.
In the past two decades, it has evolved from a paramedic-led service to a consultant-led service, which takes the emergency department to the patient. When the service first started in 2001, it ran eight hours a day, five days a week, and its vision was to become 24/7. This vision was achieved on 1 December last year, with the introduction of an overnight helicopter in addition to the 12-hour day-time cover.
Nearly 38,000 air medical missions in 20 years
Since its inception, the charity has undertaken nearly 38,000 missions and to keep the helicopters in the air 24/7, it needs to raise £8 million every year.
Dave Gilbert, the charity’s Chair of Trustees, said: “Looking back and following the timeline of how Wales Air Ambulance has evolved over the last 20 years gives everyone a huge sense of pride. From Robert Palmer’s early vision through to becoming one of the largest and medically advanced operations is an achievement that the whole of Wales can be proud of.
“After all, Wales Air Ambulance was created by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales, and the growth of our charity is testament to the skill, dedication, passion and generosity that exists within our country.”
Positively impacting many lives across Wales
Dr Sue Barnes, the charity’s Chief Executive, added: “I took up my post with the Wales Air Ambulance last December and it quickly became clear why the charity has thrived over the past 20 years through the professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment of those involved. This has allowed us to deliver a lifesaving service which has positively impacted many lives across the country.
“Everybody who has contributed to our charity over the years can be proud of their contribution as they have played their part in making the charity what it is today. We would like to say a heartfelt thanks to the medics, pilots, critical care allocators, staff and volunteers, trustees, and all those who have fundraised and donated over the last 20 years.”
The charity will mark the milestone with a series of activities and events between 1 March 2021 and 1 March 2022 and has begun with its ‘My20’ fundraising challenge.