Scotland’s emergency air ambulance response network is set to be enhanced as Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) announces plans to launch a second aircraft.
SCAA, which has operated a helicopter air ambulance since 2013, intends to raise £6m (the equivalent of around three year’s running costs) to fund a second life-saving helicopter prior to launch. This will increase the response capability to time-critical medical emergencies, retrievals and urgent transfers across the whole of Scotland.
The charity is confident that the public support which has funded their existing service will increase to help develop an expanded operation.
SCAA’s helicopter operates in partnership with the Scottish Ambulance Service and is tasked by national ambulance control, through the 999 system. It works alongside two Scottish Government-funded helicopter air ambulances and two fixed-wing patient transfer aircraft.
The charity believes a second aircraft would add resilience and capacity to Scotland’s national emergency response capability, helping to meet the needs of emerging air ambulance demands.
The implementation of the Scottish Trauma Network, which will require moving seriously ill patients longer distances to major trauma centres, also demonstrates the critical role that helicopters will play in supporting Scotland’s emergency services.
SCAA Chairman and Founding Trustee, John Bullough, explained that a second charity-funded helicopter would save and improve even more lives.
“Our highly visible helicopter air ambulance has become a familiar sight as it deploys to time-critical medical emergencies throughout the country. Having responded to more than 1,700 emergency call outs, the charity has built a loyal and passionate following of donors, supporters and volunteers.
“SCAA is a model for partnership between the private, public and Third Sectors. The charity has raised over £10m since its launch which is a terrific achievement and a testament to the level of support and public engagement that we have received nationally.
“SCAA has proved itself to be a fully integrated and indispensable part of our national emergency services. We are extremely proud of our close relationship with the Scottish Ambulance Service and look forward to working together to deliver this project,” said Mr Bullough.
Commenting on the announcement, Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, said:
“Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance carries out great work across Scotland, helping to save and improve lives every day. A second SCAA helicopter will make a huge difference, particularly in the more rural and remote areas of Scotland.”
Echoing pleasure at the charity’s proposals, Pauline Howie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said:
“We are delighted that plans for a new air ambulance are underway as it will undoubtedly help save even more lives.
“Due to the dedicated public support of SCAA, the charity has been able to undertake hundreds of missions which is a fantastic achievement.
“Air ambulances can save vital time in responding to patients particularly across remote and rural parts of Scotland, and a second helicopter from SCAA will bring additional resilience and capacity to our fleet to help those most in need.”
While Scotland is the only country in the UK to have Government-funded air resources, SCAA provides the country’s only charity-funded air ambulance – in sharp contrast to the 39 charity helicopter air ambulances operating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Scotland’s mainland and its 100 inhabited islands represent over a third of the UK land mass and SCAA’s second helicopter will add resilience and capacity to respond to those in most need.
The charity’s Chief Executive, David Craig, said he was confident the people of Scotland would show support for their future plans.
“Thanks to the generosity of the people of Scotland, after five years of operations we have reached a point of sustainability with our first aircraft, based at Perth Airport,” added Mr Craig. “We are therefore confident that a second aircraft will become sustainable within a similar period.
“The public, trusts, businesses and organisations have supported SCAA since day one and we hope this will continue,” he said, “but we will also be seeking the support of companies, communities, grant funders and other individuals to pledge their commitment.
“As a charity that is only five years old, SCAA successfully delivers a truly national service,” said Mr Craig, “and a second aircraft will double our operational capacity, saving and improving more lives.”
SCAA will now enter talks with existing and potential major donors to secure the £6 million required to launch and sustain a second helicopter for the first three years and, thereafter, the ongoing annual £2 million for each aircraft.
The charity will continue discussions on its plans with its main stakeholder, the Scottish Ambulance Service, to determine where a second helicopter would be best located to complement the existing helicopter air ambulances currently based at Perth, Glasgow and Inverness. There is no specified timeframe for the launch of the second aircraft. The service will become operational as soon as the fundraising target has been secured.