East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) staff, patients, supporters and volunteers all mucked in with spades on Friday 24 January to mark the start of the building works for the eagerly anticipated 24/7 EAAA Norwich base.

Once completed, the new home of EAAA will allow the charity to operate its life-saving helicopter 24 hours a day from Norwich Airport, becoming the first air ambulance in the East of England to fly 24/7.

The community-funded highly-skilled doctor and critical care paramedic teams already operate 24/7 by rapid response vehicle from Norwich, taking emergency equipment, medication and skills to patients in need. But by flying 24/7 from Norwich in the near future, the charity estimate they will be able to serve the region even better and attend hundreds more patients a year than they can currently reach by car at night.

The new base will provide essential rest and welfare facilities for the night crew and will future proof the organisation, by creating a space fit to house the Norwich-based charity and operational staff for many years to come.

It will also be equipped with a state-of-the-art training room to help the life-saving crews keep up-to-date with their vital training and will create a new community hub, where supporters and patients can better interact with the charity, including a dedicated space to deliver essential CPR training to help save more lives out in the community.

Patrick Peal, EAAA CEO, said: “This is a really big moment for the charity and it’s only possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters across East Anglia who, over nearly twenty years, have been supporting us and helping us grow our operation to continue helping more and more people.

“We believe the time of day or night shouldn’t dictate what type of emergency medical care is available in East Anglia, which is why we have been working hard to become 24/7 by helicopter for the last few years; building this new base – which has been funded through hugely generous legacy donations – will enable us to do that.”

The new base project marks a major milestone for the charity in future proofing the organisation. By investing legacy donations, which have been prudently invested over time, in the new headquarters, it is not only developing and extending its base to increase its operation and overall efficiency, it will also allow the charity to become more sustainable in the future.

By buying the land it currently operates from, and a section next to it, from Norwich Airport Ltd the charity will no longer be leasing its operational hangar and office space, reducing costs in the long-term.

In total, the new base project will cost in the region of £7 million, all funded through generous legacy donations, such as a £530,000 donation which was generated from the sale of a Nembo Spyder Ferrari three years ago. The car was left to EAAA in 2016 by the late Richard Allen, a successful businessman, racing driver and car enthusiast who supported the charity after it helped one of his fellow race drivers who was involved in a crash.

Patrick Peal added: “Going to 24/7 by helicopter has been dependent on funding and space. We rely on the community to keep us airborne so to achieve this ambition we asked our supporters to help us raise an additional £1 million a year going forward to fund the extra flying hours to continue to develop and deliver a 24/7 service for the community, and have invested historic legacy donations in the future of our operation in the new 24/7 base.”

“Increasing our annual fundraising income is no small ask, but I’m pleased to say we’ve had an amazing response to this and are confident we can achieve this target year on year with the community’s continued support. We eagerly look forward to realising our ambition to fly 24/7 from Norwich early in 2021 once the new building is fully operational, enabling us to help hundreds more patients each year.”

The building works for the new base are expected to be completed by late 2020 and will not interrupt the charity’s day-to-day operation. The fundraising and admin staff have been relocated to temporary offices on Peachman Way, Broadland Business Park, and the Anglia One helicopter and duty crews will remain operational from Norwich Airport by occupying another hangar and temporary facilities in the interim.