No. It’s important to point out that Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS is not a replacement for the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust (WAST). 

We are not part of the same organisation but we do work closely in partnership. Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS attends the highest level of life or limb-threatening emergency calls (red and some amber). It is rare that Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS attends an incident without a WAST presence. In the chain of survival, WAST medics are usually first on the scene of an incident or medical emergency and offer the all-important initial lifesaving interventions before our crew/s arrive and administer the emergency department-standard treatment that has been proven to increase the chances of survival (see our 2015-2020 Service Evaluation).  

For context, WAST receives somewhere in excess of 600,000 calls per annum and responds to around 250,000 of these as an emergency response, and 40,000 as an immediate response. Unlike the ambulance service, which covers such a broad range of services, HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) supports the highest acuity of life or limb-threatening conditions. Our detailed analysis of need has shown that somewhere in the region of 4,670 calls per year would benefit from the attendance of our critical care teams. We currently attend 72% of these nationally and the service analysis findings indicate that we can get much closer to meeting the total need – seeing an extra 583 patients and meaning that we would see 88% of those critically ill and injured patients that could benefit from our services. 

Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS is not sent to an incident or medical emergency by WAST. Within the WAST contact centre in Cwmbran is our Critical Care Hub, which is staffed 24/7 by an experienced allocator and critical care practitioner, both employed by EMRTS. They monitor the most serious 999 calls and automatically dispatch the most appropriate Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS crews to those emergencies that we can add value to with our emergency department-standard critical care. On some occasions, emergencies can be worse than first reported, or a patient can rapidly deteriorate. When this happens, a WAST paramedic involved in the incident will contact our Critical Care Hub to ask for advice and, if required, medical backup. To learn more about our Critical Care Hub, please read this article written by Hub Manager, Greg Browning

It is not just the ambulance service we work with. We try and work flexibly as a team with a range of other emergency care services. For example, our overnight crew will often switch to a road response, particularly in winter months, and may drive over significant distances, often intercepting ambulance crews to further improve time to definitive critical care. We have even been known to drive to a scene in poor weather in the middle of the night, rendezvousing with colleagues from the Search and Rescue bases who can fly in conditions that we are currently unable to. Ours is a complex and dynamic service, serving the whole of Wales and often having to balance a whole series of complicated operational, logistical and clinical judgements. 

Again, it is vital to emphasise that Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS is not a replacement for WAST. For the best patient outcomes, interventions from WAST and then Wales Air Ambulance/EMRTS are important. 

The proposed WAA/EMRTS reconfiguration is actually a service expansion as it will increase our operational hours in the North of the country, meaning that people in both North and Mid Wales will benefit from our lifesaving care for more hours of the day and night.