This is a critical question and it can only be answered by first understanding the specifics of an air ambulance operation.  

 

With only four helicopters (and complementary Rapid Response Vehicles), and four highly skilled medical crews, we are a scarce resource. There is a complex range of factors which are taken into consideration for every single deployment of our pan-Wales fleet. Dedicated allocators and clinicians in our Critical Care Hub assess every incident on a case-by-case basis to provide the most appropriate response using our resources, in conjunction with other emergency response teams we work closely with. 

Therefore, even though each air ambulance crew is based in a certain region, their response can be pan-Wales. None of our crews are restricted to a certain area of Wales, they move around the country attending missions as required. It’s about sending the most appropriate available crew, regardless of where they are based. For example, if a life or limb-threatening incident were to occur in a remote rural area of Mid Wales, it could be attended from any of our current base locations (Welshpool, Dafen, Cardiff or Caernarfon).   

Why is this important? People have raised concerns about the increased travelling times because of the proposed service reconfiguration.The reality is that this already happens, quite regularly, as part of our service and with no detrimental effect to the patients and their outcome.

Of course, helicopters can cover large distances rapidly and directly. However, some may ask how this is possible in a road vehicle when there, logically, would be increases in travelling time against the backdrop of an already difficult road network.  

In reality, Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS attends very few missions in an RRV from its Welshpool and Caernarfon bases as it currently stands.  A vast majority of their work is by air. Why? Because these locations do not lend themselves well to any kind of road response. They are remote locations with poor access to a suitable road infrastructure, which means availability is significantly reduced. This is in addition to environmental factors, particularly in Welshpool with recurring flooding of the airbase and the surrounding road network.  

To put the above into context, over the past 12 months 38% of the emergencies we attended in Mid Wales were done so by our crews in either North Wales or South Wales. Also, 74% of emergencies attended by our Welshpool crew were either in North Wales or South Wales. This clearly demonstrates that our resources are national assets that travel across the country to offer our advanced lifesaving care.  

Questions about response times are completely understandable but we hope this offers reassurance that distances are not an issue for patient care as we already respond to incidents in remote areas, such as Mid Wales, regularly, with resources from both South Wales and North Wales.