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Public may have to pay ambulance bill

PUBLISHED: 15:04 21 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:53 03 March 2010

THE major sponsorship deal for East Anglia's new air ambulance could grind to a halt in March - leaving the public to pay the bill instead.

The Evening Star can reveal that the vital sponsorship deal between the Automobile Association and the National Association of Air Ambulances which supports the country's air ambulances, will draw to an end in four months' time.

By Tracey Sparling

THE major sponsorship deal for East Anglia's new air ambulance could grind to a halt in March – leaving the public to pay the bill instead.

The Evening Star can reveal that the vital sponsorship deal between the Automobile Association and the National Association of Air Ambulances which supports the country's air ambulances, will draw to an end in four months' time.

Under the agreement, each air ambulance has received £14m during the past three years, apart from the East Anglian Air Ambulance which only started running fulltime in July.

It has so far received more than £500,000 – which paid for 100 per cent of the helicopter hire costs, and 600 hours flying time.

The air ambulance charity pays for everything else including paramedics.

A spokesman for the air ambulance said: "The deal is currently being negotiated and may or may not be renewed.

"If it is renewed, we are unsure of the amounts which will be available. Obviously if they are significantly less then we would have to raise more money from the public to enable us to keep flying seven days a week."

One of the main pressures on the charity is the cost of the crew who staff it. They are believed to cost £150,000 to £200,000 a year, out of the helicopter's total £850,000 running costs.

In some other parts of the country, the NHS covers the cost of flying paramedics, but there is not yet any national policy about who should pay.

The air ambulance spokesman said: "We believe that, of our neighbours, both Essex and Nottinghamshire & Lincolnshire get paramedic funding from the NHS.

"We are in favour of a uniform policy covering all air ambulances.

"It would be much easier if we didn't have to cover the paramedic costs, because it would reduce the amount we would need to find from other sources, whether it be sponsorship from the AA or other fundraising."

When asked if he felt the charity was reimbursing the NHS for labour, he added: "Certainly the charity is directly funding medical care which would be provided by the NHS, but for its intervention."

HISTORY OF THE AIR AMBULANCE:

N Fundraising for an air ambulance for East Anglia, started in August 2000 with the establishment of a new charity.

N On January 10 this year, the predecessor of today's helicopter was launched for a one day a week trial after a massive fundraising drive backed by jockey Frankie Dettori.

N It only flew on Fridays until April 25, when it took to the skies five days a week, with a new yellow livery to mark the AA sponsorship.

N The move marked the completion of the national air ambulance network as the Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire area was the last part of Britain to remain uncovered by airborne emergency first aiders.

N A team of 13 paramedics was specially trained to operate in the helicopter.

N On July 16 it began to run seven days a week, for ten hours a day as long as daylight and weather permitted.

WEBLINK:

www.eastanglianambulance.com/airambulance

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