Air Ambulances UK

Meet The Team

The Air Ambulances UK team is here to help

Please get in touch if you would like more information about our membership services, partnering with us, leaving a gift in your Will
or the lifesaving work of the UK’s air ambulance charities and the wider air ambulance community. We look forward to hearing from you!

Simmy Akhtar

Chief Executive

Simmy joined Air Ambulances UK in March 2021 as the charity’s first CEO and brings diverse experience from the private legal, public and charitable sectors. Simmy has over 10 years’ experience in leadership roles, most recently as Chief Officer of Healthwatch Stoke-on-Trent and Healthwatch Staffordshire.

With experience as a former trustee of the Patients Association, Simmy has in-depth knowledge of charity governance.  Simmy is also experienced in motivational leadership, strategy, digital, stakeholder engagement and influencing, equality, diversity, and inclusion as well as business development.  As reflected in her roles, Simmy is passionate about improving patient outcomes and ultimately saving more lives.

Emma Carter

Head of Income Generation

Emma has worked for ten years plus in the air ambulance sector, having previously been Head of Fundraising at the Bristol-based Great Western Air Ambulance Charity. She joined Air Ambulances UK in May 2019 as Charity Development Manager.

Emma has held several voluntary positions; she served on the Board of Trustees of a Bristol mental health charity, is a member of the Bristol Junior Chamber Council of Management and currently sits on the Chartered Institute of Fundraising Health Sector Group Committee.

She is passionate about creating long lasting relationships with supporters, suppliers and others to create maximum impact from fundraising activities and help air ambulance charities save even more lives.

Jennifer Barry

Fundraising Officer

Jennifer joined Air Ambulances UK in July 2021 after four years working at North West Air Ambulance Charity within the Community, Corporate and Events team. During her time at NWAA Jennifer completed her Certificate in Fundraising from the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, lead on events and worked with supporters across the North West to raise awareness and funds for the charity.

She has a degree in Business and Public Relations and completed a placement year at Liverpool John Lennon Airport where she was the Community and Corporate Social Responsibility Student Placement. This sparked her interest in working within the charity sector and building relationships between organisations to have a positive impact within the community.

Jennifer is passionate about communication, collaboration and creating excellent experiences for supporters.

Jamie Ward

Policy & Public Affairs Manager

Jamie joined Air Ambulances UK in June 2022 after over four years working in the third sector accumulating experience in public policy, research, data analysis and advocacy.

Jamie is passionate about supporting the air ambulance community to tackle national policy issues, whilst collaborating with organisations and stakeholders across focussed sectors to drive policy and system change to improve patient outcomes.

Aside from work Jamie enjoys a range sports including football, mixed martial arts and in contrast walking his much-loved dog.

Glen Picknell

Communications and Marketing Manager

Glen joined Air Ambulances UK in September 2022 having previously worked within marketing and communications in the hospitality sector. Glen has over 10 years’ of experience in the marketing industry and is a passionate marketer with an extensive understanding of digital marketing and communications. He completed his CIM in Professional Marketing in 2020 enabling him to progress his skills and further develop his career.

Glen is passionate about all aspects of marketing including generating brand awareness. Glen believes there is no better feeling than getting to see the positive impact of what his work has accomplished including and most importantly the impact for the air ambulance sector and the people it serves.

Carla Yarrow

Corporate Partnerships Manager

Carla joined Air Ambulances UK in May 2023 as Corporate Partnerships Manager after previously working at Lucy Air Ambulance for Children. Prior to working in the charity sector, she spent 11 years working in the hospitality sector looking after charity partnerships for one of the UK’s leading hotel management groups. Carla is passionate about working closely with our corporate supporters to maximise the impact of our partnerships and, together, help improve patient outcomes and save even more lives.

Deborah Watson

Trusts and Foundations Manager

Debbie joined Air Ambulances UK in May 2023 in the new role of Trusts and Foundations Manager.

Following a 20 year career in marketing, Debbie moved into the field of fundraising and has previously held trust fundraising roles in charities supporting children, young people and adults living with debilitating health conditions, including Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK and the MS Trust.

She is very keen to develop trusts and foundations relationships and income at AAUK to help support new initiatives across the UK’s air ambulance charities, enabling them to continue to collaborate and innovate, to develop their services and save even more patients’ lives.

AAUK Partnerships Development Manager - Rachel Breen

Rachel Breen

Partnerships Development Manager

Rachel joined Air Ambulances UK in June 2023 in the new role of Partnerships Development Manager after previously working as Fundraising Officer at LEEDS 2023, bringing in and managing a number of their corporate partnerships.

Rachel has also previously worked at Asda’s head office in several roles, including managing charity partnerships such as BBC Children in Need, and co-ordinating large-scale national fundraising events for the Asda Tickled Pink partnership.

Rachel is incredibly excited to bring her fundraising experience to Air Ambulances UK, and to work with corporates nationally to support AAUK’s lifesaving work.

Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown

Finance Manager

Stephen is a qualified accountant (FCCA) who has worked in various senior finance positions in the NHS for over twenty five years. His NHS career began in the hospital sector and for the last seventeen years has been in primary care, particularly general practice where he held the role of managing partner for many years in a medium sized practice in the Yorkshire Dales as well as being founder director (and latterly chief executive) of a GP federation. Stephen has also worked in public sector housing and as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers as part of a team advising local government on various projects.

During his time working in NHS general practice Stephen has seen the vital impact that the life saving work of air ambulance services has on local communities and is keen to bring his financial management experience to support Air Ambulances UK in championing the UK’s air ambulance charities.

Rachael Biddle

Digital Communications Coordinator

Rachael joined Air Ambulances UK in December 2023 and brings her expertise in marketing and design from roles in the hospitality and retail sectors.

With a keen eye for detail, Rachael is passionate about making a meaningful and lasting difference for Air Ambulances UK and the air ambulance community. Her dedication to enhancing the visual and communicative elements perfectly aligns with our commitment to supporting the lifesaving work of the UK’s Air Ambulance charities.

Our Trustees

The Air Ambulances UK Board of Trustees comprises of an Independent Chair, Independent Trustees and Trustees associated to an air ambulance charity. The collective combined years of experience of the Board is far-reaching and ensures the Governance excellence of Air Ambulances UK.

Heather Benjamin

Chair

Heather became Chair of Air Ambulances UK in April 2020, and brings a wealth of experience having held senior and Board positions with several large corporate businesses as well as not-for-profit and membership organisations.

Heather’s corporate experience includes Chief Procurement Officer at Centrica and Senior Independent Director on the Boards of Portsmouth Water and Cheque and Credit Clearing Company. She is currently a Non-Executive Director at Supply Chain Coordination Ltd.

She has previously been a Trustee of Volunteering England and The Academy of St Martins in the Field international orchestra and is currently Honorary Vice-President of learning-disabled organisation Walsingham Support.

John Christensen

Trustee and Vice Chair

John trained as a pharmacist and ran his own successful pharmacy group and consultancy before its sale. After that John was a member of a number of public bodies including Chairing an NHS Ambulance Trust, a Probation Board and a Police Authority.

Whilst Chair of the Police Authority, John formed the Avon and Somerset Police Community Trust charity. This experience helped later when, while Chair of the Great Western Ambulance NHS Trust, John formed and was inaugural Chair of the Trustees of Great Western Air Ambulance Charity. He later became Chief Executive of Great Western Air Ambulance Charity until he retired from that position in 2017.

Anna Perry

Trustee
Chief Executive of Great Western Air Ambulance Charity

Anna joined Great Western Air Ambulance Charity as CEO in 2017. Her previous roles include CEO of a social care charity, and senior positions in national charity and public sector organisations. Anna became a Director of the Association of Air Ambulances (AAA) in 2019, and was part of the working group leading on the merger of the AAA and Air Ambulances UK. Anna has been a school governor and councillor, has a Diploma in Fundraising, an MBA and degrees in psychology and criminal justice.

Daryl Brown

Trustee
Chief Executive of MAGPAS

Daryl joined Magpas Air Ambulance in 2009 and has seen a number of key strategic developments; taking the clinical service to 24/7, gaining the first Air Ambulance CQC registration and hosting the UKs first accredited PHEM trainees.

Daryl has held a number of honorary and elected roles within Charity, Healthcare and Local Government, including serving as Lead Governor at Cambridge University Hospitals, Chairman of NHS Cambridgeshire LINK, member of the East of England Trauma Network, member of the Intercollegiate board for Training in PHEM. Daryl also served as Executive Councillor for Huntingdonshire District Council, overseeing Shared Services and Commercialisation and served as Mayor of Huntingdon.

David Welch

Trustee
Chief Executive Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex

David joined KSS as Chief Executive in 2019 and has over 25 years of national and international experience in senior management roles at Board level in the not for profit sector. David led to the team to achieve an Outstanding rating from The Care Quality Commission in March 2020, as well as a Charity Times Charity of the Year Award in 2020 (income over £10M) and two Kent Charity Awards in 2021.

David was also awarded the Charity Times Charity Leader of the Year Award 2021 – a prestigious national award which celebrates excellence amongst charities and not for profit organisations from across the UK and honours the outstanding professionals in charity management.

David is a natural leader, team builder and team player with the ability and confidence to succeed and to motivate, inspire, communicate and influence at all levels.

David joined the Board of AAUK in April 2020 and is deeply committed to working with the wider air ambulance community to support strategic development and to collectively best serve patients across the country.

Amanda McLean

Trustee
Chief Executive of Thames Valley Air Ambulance

Amanda joined Air Ambulance UK as a trustee in April 2020. She has been CEO of Thames Valley Air Ambulance since October 2016 and led the charity through their transition to a new clinical operating model. During this time Amanda was also the Founding Chair of the Bonitas Multi Academy Trust. Having read law at Oxford, she started her career as a fundraiser and has held senior leadership roles in healthcare charities since 2006.

Claire Walters

Trustee

Claire first got involved with Air Ambulances UK as a fundraising partner, having benefited from an air ambulance mission following a cycling accident in 2019, and became a Trustee in 2020. Claire is keen to support development of corporate relationships and national fundraising, and is Chair of the Risk and Audit Committee.

Claire’s other role is Regional Vice President for Lineage, responsible for delivering temperature-controlled supply chain solutions to retailers, manufacturers and food service providers across the UK and Ireland. She is also a Director of the Cold Chain Federation.

Outside of work Claire is passionate about travel and the outdoors, with a love of cycling and walking.

Matthew Williams

Trustee

Matthew joined Air Ambulances UK as a trustee in October 2020.  He is a junior doctor currently completing his emergency medicine specialty training in South Wales and is looking to pursue a career in pre-hospital medicine in the future.

Matthew has recent experience of charity leadership and governance as a trustee of other UK wide health and education focussed charities including one with a similar membership structure to AAUK.  He is also in the final stages of completing a Masters in Healthcare Leadership and is looking forward to working with the rest of the Board of Air Ambulances UK to help drive the charity forward over the next few years.

Andrew Hicks

Trustee

Andrew joined Air Ambulances UK in May 2023 as an independent trustee inspired by the opportunity to contribute to an organisation that supports the lifesaving work of the UK’s Air Ambulance Charities.

Andrew’s other role is Chief Financial Officer of nShift, the global leader in parcel delivery management and shipment software. He has spent 15 years holding CFO positions for private equity backed software companies both in the United Kingdom and the United States. He hopes to bring his financial acumen and digital skills to complement the contributions of the other trustees at AAUK.

Outside of work Andrew enjoys spending time with his wife and two teenage children and travelling to their favourite holiday destination on the Algarve, Portugal.

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