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New air ambulance could be flying high

PUBLISHED: 22:35 02 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:34 03 March 2010

A NEW air ambulance could be on the way for the region but it may some way off Trust bosses have warned.

Managers are said to be weighing up plans for a second helicopter to cover East Anglia, after a significant increase in funding from sponsorship and public donations.

A NEW air ambulance could be on the way for the region but it may some way off Trust bosses have warned.

Managers are said to be weighing up plans for a second helicopter to cover East Anglia, after a significant increase in funding from sponsorship and public donations.

But a spokesman for the East Anglian Ambulance Trust today warned that the plans were in the very early stages.

He said: "If the charity comes to the decision where they could afford a new one they would have to talk to us first because we have to pay for the paramedics.

"We would also need enough paramedics to cover it – it is some way off yet."

The East Anglian Air Ambulance – Anglia One – currently operates seven days a week, supporting the teams of ambulance paramedics operating across Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

It relies entirely upon charity donations, save a one-off £257,000 'shot in the arm' handed out by the Government earlier this year.

But healthy levels of charitable donations may soon tempt the ambulance service hierarchy to consider running another helicopter.

If this were to happen, the trust would go from be only the second in the country to have more than one helicopter.

It was the last place in the country to benefit from having an air ambulance. The costs of the air ambulance are about £700,000 a year.

Last November we revealed a funding wrangle over who should pay for the flying paramedics, then in March the AA reduced its national sponsorship for air ambulances creating fears for the future.

Although the charity's managers have warned donation levels can be "unpredictable and very varied", they are keen to see an extension to the service, which flew 544 missions in the first six months of this year.

Many were 999 calls to remote and inaccessible locations in rural or coastal areas that land-based ambulances struggled to reach in quick time.

Kate Lewis, the trust's general manager, said she was keen to examine the options.

She said: "It is something I would like to see happen but there are a lot of decisions that would have to be made first. When can we afford it? What would its role be? How would it fit into the infrastructure?

"A lot of logistics would need to be worked out and there would have to be extensive discussion with the NHS trust."

Ms Lewis said East Anglia's size would be a factor in what happened now.

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