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Costs keep on rising in fight to save lives
Buy this photo » Walking away from their helicopter following another rescue are, left to right, paramedics Adam Broom and Richard Company, with pilot Alf Gasparro. Picture: OX62581 Jon Lewis
EVERY day pilots fly in to save lives across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
Staff based at RAF Benson near Wallingford land at three incidents a day on average – at a cost of £2,500 a time or £7,500 a day.
But the distinctive red and yellow helicopter of Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance – affectionately known as BOB and manned by a doctor-led crew – receives no Government funding and relies on donations to keep the service in the air.
Paramedic Adam Broom, 38, from Milton Keynes, said: “The big thing about the air ambulance is its ability to take highly-trained people to the scene, the doctors, the blood on board the aircraft.
“We can reach Milton Keynes within 15 minutes and get a patient to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford within 15 minutes.”
Father-of-two Mr Broom, who also works as a paramedic in road ambulances, added: “What you tend to find with the air ambulance is you attend the more significant incidents, so you are exposed to more serious incidents of a medical nature.”
The Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust is an independent charitable trust that provides the life-saving service for the three counties.
Since 1999, the air ambulance has undertaken more than 14,500 missions.
Eleanor Green, Oxfordshire fundraising manager, said: “On average, BOB is called out two to three times a day to missions involving traffic accidents, equestrian and sporting accidents and medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.
“By carrying a highly-skilled medical team, in addition to advanced equipment not carried by land ambulances, we can make a significant difference to those who really need us.
“In December last year we became the only other air ambulance in the country to carry units of blood enabling our doctors and paramedics to give blood to patients on scene.
“This is an important milestone in the development of the air ambulance service we provide for the communities we serve.”
The service relocated to RAF Benson from White Waltham Airfield in Maidenhead, Berkshire, in January 2007.
Pilots can now reach anywhere in Oxfordshire within 10 minutes.
Ms Green added: “In 2014, the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance will celebrate its 15th birthday. We are so proud of the service we provide and the lives we have changed for the better.
“But with each mission costing approximately £2,500 we must constantly look for funding to enable us to continue to provide this fantastic emergency service, and also help to support and ensure the helicopter’s future, and service development.
“With no funding from Central Government, or the National Lottery, we rely on the support of the communities and businesses we serve to keep us saving lives.
“Without this support, we simply wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
To find out more about supporting the air ambulance, visit tvacaa.org or call 0300 999 0135.
The Oxford Mail publishes the results of the air ambulance lottery every Tuesday.
‘I owe my life to the air ambulance’
Father-of-two Lee Bishop would probably not be alive if it was not for the air ambulance.
Mr Bishop was travelling on his motorcycle from Didcot, where he worked for a builder’s merchant, to his home in Cholsey on July 17 last year when he was involved in a head-on collision with an oncoming car.
The air ambulance took him from the crash scene on a minor road to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. There medical staff discovered he had broken his back, cracked a rib and was suffering from internal bleeding.
In a 24-hour period Mr Bishop was given 10 pints of blood and then spent two weeks in the intensive care unit, followed by a further four weeks on a hospital ward.
He told the Oxford Mail: “If the air ambulance was not around, I would not be here now.
“It is just amazing the work that they do – my family is hugely grateful.”
When he was well enough on May 29, Mr Bishop visited the air ambulance crew at RAF Benson with wife Charlotte, son Aaron, 10, and daughter Kayla, seven, and his mum and dad Sue and Alan Bishop.
Mr Bishop added: “The air ambulance is so important – it is just one of those life-saving things. Without it there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t be here now.”
AT A GLANCE
- Total Missions in Oxfordshire in 2012: 266
- Number of missions from April to September 2013: 166
- Number of missions in September 2013: 28
- Cost per mission: £2,500
- Cost in September 2013: £70,000
- Cost in 2012: £665,000
- 14,500 missions since its launch in 1999
- Estimated cost: more than £36m
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