24/7 air ambulance flying starts 30 June, becoming first in East of England

Wednesday 30 June is a landmark moment for East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) and the provision of emergency critical care in the region, as the charity starts flying 24/7 for the very first time.  


The gap between 1:30 am and 7am where there has been no helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) coverage in the region will now be closed, as EAAA becomes the first air ambulance in the East of England to fly 24 hours a day.  


Becoming a 24/7 service for East Anglia has been a long-term ambition of the charity, with the initial research for expanding to a 24/7 operation taking place four years ago. Since then, EAAA has taken gradual steps towards achieving this ambition, which importantly included raising an extra million pounds a year to fund the additional operating hours, increasing its car cover to 24/7, building a new operational base and now 24/7 flying.  


EAAA has two critical care teams, Anglia One and Anglia Two, which operate from Norwich and Cambridge respectively to take the A and E department to the patient, by air or by car, wherever they may be in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk or Norfolk. The highly skilled doctor and critical care paramedics have been operating 24/7 by rapid response vehicle since March 2020 and now that 24/7 service will be bolstered by a 24/7 helicopter operation, too, for the very first time.   


By becoming a 24/7 service by air and by car, EAAA estimates it can be tasked around 600 more times a year, helping hundreds more patients in their hour of need. Last year, the crews were tasked more than 500 times at night by RRV alone, demonstrating the demand that exists overnight. 


Matthew Jones, the recently appointed CEO of EAAA, said: “This is a huge moment for East Anglia and something that we, as a charity, have been working passionately towards for several years; to provide critical care to someone in a life-threatening or life-changing situation no matter what the time of day or night.  


“To be about to fly 24 hours a day for the very first time, by providing two 12-hour helicopter shifts, is the last piece of the Mission 24/7 puzzle. However, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this if it wasn’t for the incredible generosity of people throughout the region who have helped EAAA grow into the amazing lifeline that it is now.  


“In just over 20 years East Anglian Air Ambulance has gone from operating just one day a week to becoming a really sophisticated 24/7 helicopter operation. That just would not have been possible without the people of East Anglia who have gone above and beyond in supporting this charity and keeping our crews flying, so that they can be there for someone to make what could be their last day into simply their worst day. We look forward to being able to fly to more patients in the early hours of the morning, where our teams have previously only been available by rapid response vehicle.” 


By flying 24/7 from 30 June, EAAA will now be able to provide the same level of service by helicopter or by car 24 hours a day to patients in need like Chris Marshall, who was saved by the charity last year. 


Trek 24 events 
To further support EAAA’s 24/7 operation, three 24-mile or 24-kilometre fundraising treks will be taking place around the region this summer. Join Trek 24 Suffolk Coast and Country on Saturday 14 August, Trek 24 The Chilterns Challenge on Saturday 4 September or Trek 24 Norfolk Coast Path on Sunday 12 September to help fund EAAA’s 24/7 service. For more information, go to: www.trek-24.co.uk  


Patient case study – Sheringham cyclist owes life to East Anglian Air Ambulance after collision  

Chris Marshall, aged 49, is a barber from Sheringham and father of two. In May last year Chris was involved in a life-threatening collision with a car near Cromer Golf Club, while he was out training for a 100-mile cycle challenge. When Chris’s wife was first notified about the accident, she was told Chris wasn’t likely to survive.  


The accident happened around 11:30am on 12 May 2020. A team from the East Anglian Air Ambulance was tasked at 11:39am to provide critical care at the scene, landing on the Cromer Golf Club car park. The EAAA team worked for over an hour to deliver the enhanced pre-hospital care interventions required to give Chris a fighting chance. These included performing a thoracostomy, a procedure to release air to treat a collapsed lung, and anaesthetising Chris to take control of his breathing.  

Chris had a suspected head injury and had broken several bones in his body. His injuries were classed as life-threatening and without the enhanced interventions of the air ambulance team, he would not have made it to hospital.  


Fortunately, the team were able to stabilise Chris enough to be moved and he was flown to the major trauma centre at Addenbrooke’s for specialist treatment. Chris’ injuries were extensive and included three bleeds on the brain, several spinal fractures, including some damage to his spinal cord, a fractured pelvis, broken left shoulder blade, hip and ankle and several broken ribs on his right side. He has since suffered double vision, slurred speech and had to learn to walk and talk again. Chris also has nerve damage which still prevents him from fully lifting his arms up.  


Despite these severe injuries, Chris has shown true grit and determination to recover and this August is planning to cycle 435 miles, known as the Adrian Flux Lap of Anglia, to help raise vital funds for EAAA. Chris was also recently voted EAAA’s Most Inspirational Patient for 2021 for his inspiring recovery and attitude to life.  


Chris said: “I’m still not 100% but I know how close I came to dying and I’m just so, so glad that I didn’t and so grateful to the East Anglian Air Ambulance that they were there to save my life. Having spoken to the team who treated me, there’s no way the ambulance service paramedics would have been able to deliver the enhanced level of care that the air ambulance team did, which saved me, so without them there’s no way I’d be here now to see my kids grow up.  


“I’ve still got a long way to go but the Lap of Anglia is a really big target of mine – I’ve never done that much back-to-back to cycling before, and on day one we will go past the site of the incident in Cromer, which will be tough, but I’ll be with about 70 other cyclists who are all cycling for the same cause, and that will get me through it. I’ll never cycle on my own ever again though and would urge everyone to be exceptionally careful around cyclists on the road. Just a few seconds can change someone’s life forever.”  


EAAA Doctor Chris Chadwick, who treated Chris, added: “We could tell as soon as we arrived on scene that our patient, a male cyclist, was seriously injured. We worked quickly despite the hot day in full PPE to deliver an emergency anaesthetic and other critical care interventions. With the help of all the emergency services on scene, we were soon airborne and flying to the major trauma centre at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. We checked for updates over the next few days and hoped for the best but we knew he had extensive and serious injuries.

“I can’t tell you how glad we were to speak to Chris and his family over Teams many months later to hear about his incredible recovery and his indomitable spirit, supported by our very special Aftercare nurses. Chris thoroughly deserves his inspirational patient award and we look forward to cheering him on as he gets back on his bike and taking on his challenge to support East Anglian Air Ambulance in August.”