Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the AA’s £14M partnership which created the first national network of air ambulances across the UK

Air Ambulances UK and the AA have marked the 20th anniversary of the AA’s milestone £14M partnership with the air ambulance sector at a presentation held at Wiltshire Air Ambulance – one of the 21 air ambulance charities saving lives every day across the UK.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance pilots Captain Elvis Costello, Critical Care Paramedic Ben Abbott and Helicopter Emergency Medical Service paramedic Sophie Holt met with the AA’s Patrol of the Year employees George Flinton and Mo Maron at the charity’s airbase, near Melksham, to celebrate the special occasion.

20 years ago, the three-year national sponsorship partnership funded an extra seven air ambulance helicopters, almost doubling the number already in service, enabling coverage across the UK for the first time.

In 1999 road traffic collisions accounted for the most frequent type of air ambulance lifesaving mission and the £14M partnership, the largest-ever corporate sponsorship deal of its time, formed part of the AA’s response to this alarming statistic and commitment to improving road safety issues.

The sponsorship funding, made available through the former ‘National Association of Air Ambulances Service’ charity, also enabled the start-up of five new charities to fundraise for the ongoing service of the new helicopters and supported the nine air ambulance charities already in existence, helping them to develop their services.

20 years on, the legacy of the partnership is thriving with 21 air ambulance charities now collectively making around 70 lifesaving missions every day across the UK; rapidly bring A&E-level equipment and care to the patient at the scene to help save lives when every second counts towards survival, before onward transfer to hospital.

Says Edmund King, President of the AA: We are thrilled to commemorate our partnership with the air ambulance sector on this special anniversary. It’s the perfect time to look back over the past two decades and recognise the immense support and care provided by air ambulance charities across the country to those in need.”

Air Ambulance charities are now recognised as global-leaders in Helicopter Emergency Medical Service provision; the Critical Care Team doctors and paramedics are among the most highly skilled trauma medics in the world.

Today, road traffic collisions remain the most frequent type of air ambulance mission with around 11,000 a year collectively attended by the UK’s 21 air ambulance charities. Each air ambulance mission costs about £2,500 and is funded entirely by donations – air ambulance charities do not receive any regular direct Government funding.

Air Ambulances UK is now the official national charity supporting the lifesaving work of the UK’s 21 air ambulance charities, forging nationwide fundraising partnerships with organisations which have included Allianz and Roadchef.

Liz Campbell, Chair of Air Ambulances UK, says: “On behalf of all air ambulance charities I would like to express enormous gratitude to the AA for this transformative partnership which enabled such expedient expansion of the vital air ambulance service across the UK in 1999 and has helped to save thousands of lives over the past 20 years.”

David Philpott, CEO of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, remembers: “I came into the air ambulance sector nearly 20 years ago, just as the AA sponsorship was being rolled-out. I have no doubt that were it not for this imaginative partnership, a number of air ambulance services would have taken many more years to launch and those already established would have had significant funding challenges. I believe thousands of lives have been saved because of this partnership, and I therefore count it a great privilege to host the AA here today on this special anniversary.”

Today, the UK’s 21 air ambulance charities face many challenges and the national partnerships forged by Air Ambulances UK will help to fund key areas of their lifesaving work across the UK:

  • Increased demand for daily lifesaving missions
  • Extending operational hours to provide a lifesaving service up to 24/7 365, including equipping helicopters to fly at night, and more rapid response vehicles to support operations in adverse weather or hours of darkness
  • Advancing principle clinical capability; always ensuring the helicopters and RRVs are kitted out with the latest most advanced lifesaving trauma equipment – bringing the A&E department to the patient
  • Introducing wellbeing aftercare programmes in the air ambulance community to support i) patients and ii) staff involved in traumatic experiences

For more information about becoming an Air Ambulances UK partner visit airambulancesuk.org

Media enquiries: Nikki Wright t: 07340 754406 e: nikki.wright@airambulancesuk.org