2016 ‘busiest year’ for Bristol based air ambulance

Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) experienced its busiest year on record last year due to the amount of callouts it received.

The Bristol based charity, which operates 365 days a year out of Filton Airfield, was called to attend 1,735 incidents across Bristol, Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset and Wiltshire in 2016.

The result is an increase on 2015, where crews attended 1,655 jobs by helicopter and ground ambulance.

A valuable service 

GWAAC has been providing an air ambulance service, for over two million people across the region, for over eight years. The charity receives no day to day government or lottery funding and relies on £2.6 million worth of fundraising to stay operational.

Laura Durrant, PR and Media officer for GWAAC, explains just how much money it takes to keep the air ambulance flying:

Emma Carter, who is Head of Fundraising and Marketing said: “The number of jobs we have attended show just how vitally important the critical care team is.”

“we focus on getting the care to the patient as quickly as possible, and then transporting them to the hospital best equipped to deal with their needs.

“But we cant do this without the support of the public, and we are calling on you to get behind your local air ambulance and keep us flying.”

The critical care team deal with everything from births to roadside surgery. Picture: GWAAC
The critical care paramedics and doctors deal with everything from cardiac arrests to roadside surgery. Picture: GWAAC

The service GWAAC provides is reliant on the expertise of its pilots, critical care paramedics and doctors who specialise in pre-hospital care and trauma medicine. From emergency caesareans to roadside amputations and dealing with cardiac arrests, they bring the skills found in a hospital to the scene of an emergency.

Creating a new generation of life-savers

With the growing number of rescue missions, 2016 also saw the charity launch a new campaign called Great Western Heart Starters.

Partnered with the students of UWE in Bristol, the campaign’s main aim is to deliver basic CPR and life support skills to pupils in secondary education.

Every year in the UK there are 60,000 cardiac arrests, with over half of those being witnessed by a member of the public. Teaching people how to give basic CPR in the minutes before the paramedics arrive is vital, and could save the life of the patient.

GWAAC launched their new campaign with the following video:

Video courtesy of GWAAC

The future is promising

The end of 2017 will see the GWAAC operate out of a new home, as they have been granted planning permission from South Gloucestershire to have a new, bigger hanger built near the Almondsbury interchange.

GWAAC have been situated at Filton Airfield since 2008. The hangar they currently use was built during the First World War and is one of the oldest surviving hangers in the UK.

The new hangar will be a significant upgrade to the charity and will house the GWAAC helicopter alongside the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter.

The move also comes as a result of the Bristol Aerospace museum (BAM) renovating a large percentage of Filton Airfield for its opening in the summer of 2017. An agreement between GWAAC and BAM meant that a new location for the air ambulance had to be found and fully paid for. GWAAC are not expected to finance the relocation.

This hanger will be a significant upgrade on the current hanger at Filton, which was built during the First World War and is one of the oldest surviving hangers in the UK. Picture: Google Maps
The new hanger will finally allow the charity to operate out of a building that is fit for purpose. Picture: Proposed site (Google Maps)

GWAAC’s Chief Executive John Christensen said: “Finding a new base has been a long journey for us, and I am glad that it is now finally over and we can begin work.

“Our main focus has been to find a site that is easily accessible both by helicopter and car, and the Almondsbury site was the only viable option. I am pleased that we will have a modern base that will ensure that we can continue to provide this life-saving service.”

The decision to grant planning permission marks the end of four years of work, in which hundreds of sites were surveyed.

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Words: Luke Knight

Video: Jack Tunstall

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