Lift off for Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance

 Wednesday 22 May 2013

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance is ready for lift off.

The country’s first and only charity-funded air ambulance helicopter takes to the skies today, flying emergency frontline clinical care into the hearts of communities across the whole of Scotland. SCAA logged on with the Scottish Air Ambulance Service despatch centre at 1pm to say “Helimed 76” is ready for operational deployment.

Today’s launch marks the culmination of several years' work by a small team of private individuals  who have successfully pulled together a partnership of public, private and third sector organisations to deliver an additional helicopter air ambulance for Scotland.

In Scotland the Government funds two helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft based in Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen.

From today, Scotland will have an additional helicopter air ambulance supplementing the work of the Scottish Ambulance Service in delivering an even more extensive front-line emergency response service.

SCAA chairman John Bullough expressed delight at bringing the project to fruition but warned that the hard work would continue.

“Today’s launch marks a real milestone for everyone involved with Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance,” he said. “To have a resource like this for all the people of Scotland is just tremendous - but it will take each and every one of us to maintain this vital life-saving service.”

SCAA will cost around £1.5 million each year to fund the aircraft, pilots, paramedics and charity staff. But, with the public backing 32 similar helicopter air ambulances in England and Wales, SCAA is confident the people of Scotland will support one.

“This will be the people’s air ambulance, funded by the public and supported by communities the length and breadth of the country who recognise the value of fast-reaction clinical air support in the face of mishap, illness and tragedy,” said Mr Bullough. “We’ve been really heartened by - and appreciative of - the amazing support the charity has received in order to bring us to operational readiness. But we need the help of everyone in Scotland to keep the country’s charity air ambulance flying in the months and years ahead.”

Based centrally at Perth Airport, Scone, to provide optimum cover across Scotland, SCAA will operate 10 hours a day, seven days a week, tasked through the 999 emergency service.

“Helicopter air ambulances can get patients to vital clinical help rapidly, especially from remote communities,” added Mr Bullough. “SCAA will be a life-saver and a resource that the people of Scotland can be proud of.”

Launching the new charity service, Health Secretary, Alex Neil, said:
"I am delighted to see the new charity air ambulance taking to the skies today.
"The Scottish Ambulance Service air ambulance is the only publicly funded air ambulance service in the UK and it continues to providing a vital service for patients across Scotland. I hope that this new charity funded air ambulance will help to enhance the provision of air ambulances across the country.
"It is important that patients can rely on the provision of a safe, responsive and high-quality air ambulance service and the funds raised by this charity will help to continue to deliver a world-class, future-proof service that has been specifically designed to benefit patients throughout Scotland.”

Pauline Howie, Chief Executive, Scottish Ambulance Service, said:
“The new charity air ambulance is a welcome addition to our fleet of helicopters and planes.  The additional helicopter will bring more flexibility and resilience to air ambulance operations across Scotland.  It will be crewed by our own paramedics and tasked by our Ambulance Control Centre in the same way as our own aircraft.”