Published:  01 December 2023

The life-saving air ambulance service in Wales has won two top prizes at the annual Air Ambulance Awards of Excellence.

The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) and its partners the Wales Air Ambulance Charity were nominated in a trio of categories in the event organised by Air Ambulances UK - the national organisation supporting the work of the UK’s 21 air ambulance charities.

At a ceremony held at the home of Reading FC last night, (Thursday, 30 November) the service walked away with gongs for Operations Support Staff of the Year and Special Incident of the Year.

EMRTS National Director David Lockey said: “Once again the talents of our staff and quality of our service has been recognised nationally and both of the prizes are thoroughly deserved.

“They recognise the expertise, professionalism and dedication not only of our highly skilled clinicians, but also the teams that support them, from the Critical Care Hub and the administrative and logistical support to our stakeholders and partners, the Wales Air Ambulance.

“We are proud to have each of them working for EMRTS”.

Sue Barnes, Wales Air Ambulance Chief Executive, added: “We are always incredibly proud of our EMRTS colleagues. Each and every day, the medical and aviation crews deliver exceptional care across the country, supported by the expertise of those who coordinate our service from the Critical Care Hub.

“We are absolutely delighted to see this recognised by the air ambulance community and our congratulations go to all of the award winners. It is a moment to fully appreciate their dedication and to say thank you to our Charity supporters who allow us to deliver such a critical service for Wales.”

The winner of the Operations Support category was EMRTS Critical Care Hub manager Greg Browning, having been nominated by colleagues for his exemplary and outstanding service.

The Hub, based in Cwmbran, is the centre of the Wales Air Ambulance service. Operating 24/7, an allocator/ dispatcher and critical care practitioner monitor every 999 call made to the Welsh Ambulance Service and identify where early critical care intervention is required before dispatching the most appropriate Wales Air Ambulance resource.

Greg is responsible for the complex management of making sure the operation runs smoothly, and since joining the service back in 2015 has been an instrumental member of the team.

Speaking after his win, Greg said: “I am beyond thrilled. This is first time I have been nominated for an award, let alone win one, and it is undoubtedly one of the proudest moment of my entire career. 

“Knowing that my colleagues were behind the scenes nominating me for this award makes me feel hugely honoured and is something I shall cherish. The entire table erupted when I won, which is still surreal. I am grateful every day for the opportunities EMRTS and the Wales Air Ambulance have presented me with, and this is quite simply the icing on the cake.”

EMRTS medics also won the Special Incident of the Year Award for the delivery of extremely premature twins in a home environment.

Two EMRTS crews in Wales Air Ambulance Charity rapid response vehicles were last year dispatched by CCP Tom Archer and Critical Air Support Dispatcher, Katie Manson, to a woman in labour at just 24 weeks.

With the twins being so premature the odds of their survival were extremely low.

Critical Care Practitioners Josh Eason, Elliott Rees, Marc Frowen and Critical Care Consultant Dr Laura Owen, delivered the twins and were able to provide advanced critical care interventions in challenging conditions, with the support of top cover consultant Dr Matt O’Meara.

The emergency included extremely difficult intubations, mechanical ventilation, and the administration of lifesaving medication. Despite the conditions, the twins were stabilised and safely transported to the nearest neonatal unit. Despite challenging odds, their advanced care paved the way for one twin's miraculous survival.

Speaking on behalf of the team, Critical Care Practitioner Josh Eason said the awards are testament to the work the Wales Air Ambulance does on a daily basis.

He said: “The event was amazing, and the atmosphere was wonderful. It was so nice to celebrate all of our colleagues' excellence across all air ambulance charities across the UK and come together as one big team. We are all really proud to win our award and we are equally honoured to have been nominated and shortlisted against some amazingly talented and deserving air ambulance charities.

“Everyone is a winner in their own right, and we are shocked but extremely grateful to receive our award. The team are thrilled and so proud. Everyone in our category demonstrated the amazing work the air ambulance teams do and the real life benefit of providing critical care to patients.

“The awards are an opportunity to reflect on the work that the air ambulance charities do and highlight the positives and achievements and are a great example of why we do the work that we do.”        

Operations Director Mark Winter was also shortlisted for Lifetime Achievement award for a long and distinguished career at the hub of EMRTS. He continues to be the operational glue for the organisation and always goes above and beyond to ensure that the organisation functions and all of its members are safe and well looked after.

The Wales Air Ambulance service is consultant-led, taking hospital-standard treatments to the patient and, if required, transferring them directly to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury. For the patient, this can mean hours saved when compared to standard care and is proven to greatly improve survival and early recovery. 

This advanced critical care includes the ability to administer anaesthesia, deliver blood transfusions and conduct minor operations, all at the scene of an incident.

The Service is often described as a ‘flying emergency department’, however, it can also deliver the same standard of care by road via its fleet of rapid response vehicles.

This 24/7 service is delivered via a unique Third Sector and Public Sector partnership. The Wales Air Ambulance Charity relies on public donations to raise the £11.2 million required every year to keep the helicopters in the air and rapid response vehicles on the road. The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) supplies highly skilled NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who work on board the Charity’s vehicles.  

As a pan-Wales service, its dedicated crews will travel the length and breadth of the country to deliver emergency lifesaving care.