Air ambulance charities
The five air ambulance charities in the south west provide an operational resource that covers the whole Trust area, supplementing the Trust’s own resources. Each charity has a helicopter (Devon has two) and a number of critical care cars on which to deploy their teams. The charities each raise many millions of pounds per year in order to provide their service, and rely on the support of the public in making donations and participating in fundraising activities.
The five south west air ambulance charities are:
The Trust is responsible for deploying the air ambulance resources, which are operational 365 days a year. These five charities collectively provide funding to cover the cost of the Trust’s Critical Care and Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) dispatch desk, based in Exeter.
Relationship with the Trust
With the exception of Devon Air Ambulance Trust which has its own CQC registration and employs its own clinicians directly, the Trust:
- holds the Care Quality Commission registration for the clinical activities of the air ambulance charities
- employs the Specialist Paramedics, Practitioners and Advanced Practitioners who work with the air ambulance charities, providing funding for 7.2 WTE paramedics with the remainder funded by the charities
- supports the provision of goods and services, such as clinical supplies, which are funded by the charities
The Trust works closely with the air ambulance charities, with the Medical Director of each charity having close links to the Trust’s Medical Directorate, and the Air Operations Officer at each charity base being managed through the Trust’s Operations Directorate.
A variety of other forums are held regularly to ensure good communication and effective working between the Trust and the air ambulance charities. The five charities nominate one of their Chief Executives to be appointed to the Council of Governors.
The benefits of air ambulances
The five air ambulance charities provide an invaluable additional resource for the communities of the south west, supplementing the Trust’s resources, clinical capabilities, skills and equipment.
Specialist skills and equipment
The Specialist and Advanced Practitioners and Doctors working with the air ambulance charities have additional training and qualifications that enable them to undertake clinically advanced procedures and interventions that the Trust’s land crews are unable to. The charities provide specialist equipment and drugs that are not able to be carried or used by the Trust’s own teams. The air ambulance teams are therefore deployed to the sickest and more critically injured patients to give them the best chance of survival.
Speed of care
The air ambulance charities aim to bring specialist skills, equipment and drugs to the patient, wherever they are, as fast as possible. This means that critically injured and unwell patients receive the right level of care much faster than they otherwise would. The air ambulance teams deploy by helicopter or by car, depending on the location of the incident, weather, darkness and other considerations. After assessing the patient and stabilising them as far as possible, the crew take the patient to the most appropriate hospital, where they will receive the level of care they need, rather than to the nearest hospital. The patient may be transported by helicopter or via one of the Trust’s ambulances, with the air ambulance team in attendance.
Ability to access isolated areas
Sometimes patients are not able to be reached by a land resource due to terrain such as moorland, or due to environmental factors such as flooding and snow fall. Even though one of the Trust's 4x4 vehicles is often more suitable for patients with minor injuries, an air ambulance can be considered if the 4x4 is unable to reach the patient.