OXFORDSHIRE’S air ambulance is to become as an independent medical organisation for the first time.

Thames Valley Air Ambulance, which until now has ‘hired’ NHS paramedics and doctors to fly in its helicopter, will now employ its own medics.

It will also appoint its first ever clinical governing board.

The charity said that in recent years its model of 'hiring' medics through the NHS had become 'increasing challenging in times of heightened financial pressure on NHS organisations'.

The new model, it said, would allow it to employ more medics and provider a better, more streamlined service.

Spokeswoman Sarah Williamson said: “At its heart, these changes are about providing the best possible care for patients: that is what we are here to do.

“It means will be able to stand on our own two feet to provider a bigger, better service.”

The service, based at RAF Benson, has been breaking ground for years: it recently became the first air ambulance in the UK to carry a hospital-standard blood analysis machine.

It has also rolled out a unique video communications system, where doctors wear body cameras to give HQ a live stream of what they are dealing with.

It receives no government funding, and raises millions of pounds in public donations to pay for South Central Ambulance Service paramedics and doctors from regional hospitals to fly with its team.

In the new year, TVAA will register with the health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as an official medical service provider like a hospital or care home.

Thereafter the team will be rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ if they perform well and could also be shut down if they don’t meet standards.

The registration also means TVAA will be able to employ its own clinical staff.

Initially the charity plans to hire ten paramedics – the same number that is currently pays South Central Ambulance Service to work in the air ambulance – but it hopes with its new model to increase that number to 15 or even 20.

The whole new model will cost the charity approximately £2m more than its current £5m annual spend, but it is confident that it will be able to cover the whole cost with its steadily increasing public donations.

Chief executive Amanda McLean said: “Thanks to the generous support TVAA receive from the public, we are now in a position to move to assume responsibility for clinical governance and the delivery of advanced critical care."

Medical director Dr Syed Masud, recently crowned Doctor of the Year by Thames Valley Police, added: “We are delighted to have been able to reach this point and are confident that this future model and our close working relationship with SCAS will allow us to continue to enhance our service.”