UK celebrates National Air Ambulance Week and 30-year milestone

(left to right) Essex & Herts Air Ambulance, Magpas Air Ambulance, East Anglian Air Ambulance and London Air Ambulance crews mark NAAW (Digital Photography by Rob Holding)
Members of Parliament Jim Fitzpatrick and Mark Pawsey, chair and vice-chair of the APPGAA respectively (AAA)

The Association of Air Ambulances (AAA) is celebrating both National Air Ambulance Week (NAAW) and the 30th anniversary of the start of helicopter emergency services in the UK. The first such air ambulance service began flying in Cornwall in April 1987.

Since then, noted the AAA, these critical life-saving services have invested funds to expand their operations, increased their operating hours to operate at night, upgraded to larger aircraft, increased their medical capabilities with the carriage of blood products and invested in the advanced education and training of their paramedics and doctors. The charities together raised £162 million in 2016, said the AAA, operated 39 helicopters and fly on average 20,500 missions each year.

During NAAW 2017, which runs from 11-17 September, many of the local charities organise events and initiatives in a bid to generate funds and raise awareness, said the AAA: “One idea, which is set to ‘take off’ in support of the UK’s air ambulance charities, is a social media campaign called ‘Pie in the Sky’. The initiative is rapidly gaining pace and involves members of the public posting a video to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube of themselves taking a ‘pie in the face’, pledging a donation and nominating three others to do the same.”

Jim Fitzpatrick, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Air Ambulances (APPGAA) and member of Parliament for Poplar and Limehouse commented: “Air ambulances play an essential role in our emergency services response and the advanced care which has recently played a part in a 20-per-cent [decrease] in mortality should be commended. The number of incidents where the skills of the crews are needed is increasing, and the types of care needed are becoming more complex as our population ages and we stay more active into later life.”

As part of the National Air Ambulance Week celebrations, four air ambulance charities from London and the east of England came together for the first time to raise awareness of the emergency pre-hospital care they bring to patients in their time of need. East Anglian Air Ambulance, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT), London’s Air Ambulance and Magpas Air Ambulance highlighted that in 2016 alone, they were called out to 6,787 serious medical emergencies, providing advanced critical care at the scene. The charities have joined forces to sell fundraising pin badges and to create a promotional video.

Maria Alexander, head of fundraising at EHAAT, said: “This is a huge leap forward for us. We want these badges to give us the opportunity to start working together more regularly and shine a light on the larger air ambulance community and the importance of the work we do. We usually have borders to fundraising, but there are no barriers to us saving lives and, ideally, this project will be a trial to continue and grow with next year’s National Air Ambulance Week.”

Debbie Florence, head of community fundraising for Magpas Air Ambulance, added: “This joint fundraising collaboration between four progressive air ambulances has never occurred in the industry before! It means so much to Magpas Air Ambulance to be working in a long-term sustainable partnership under the banner of ‘support your local air ambulance - together we save lives’; this could, and indeed should be, the springboard for all other air ambulances to join in this campaign for 2018 and beyond to have a consistent approach and share commonality in NAAW. The pin badge concept is so simple and the great British public can wear their life-saving helicopter or indeed collect all four pin badges. By working together we educate, raise awareness and much needed funds for these amazing charities.”

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