13/01/2020

The Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) Charity has today (13 January) officially launched its campaign to fund a 24-hour helicopter operation.

It is the aim of the Charity, which currently operates 8am to 8pm 7 days a week, to extend its operating hours sometime in 2020.

Established on St David’s Day 2001, the helicopter charity has responded to over 30,000 missions in the 19 years it has served the Welsh public.

Speaking about the future, WAA Chairman, David Gilbert OBE said: “As we get ready to welcome in the start of a new decade, we felt there was no better time to take the next exciting step in developing our service. Since 2001, we have been there for the people of Wales but currently only operate 12 hours a day. With the help of the Welsh public, we want to make our vision of providing a 24-hour service a reality in 2020. 

“To deliver our current service, we have to raise £6.5 million each year to ensure we can continue our lifesaving work. 24-hour operations are likely to see our fundraising target exceed £8 million annually. We will only be able to achieve this with the help and support of the Welsh public.”

The Charity currently operates four aircraft from bases in Llanelli, Cardiff, Welshpool and Caernarfon.

Speaking about the fundraising effort required to sustain a 24-hour operation, WAA Chief Executive Officer, Angela Hughes said: “We are very fortunate that the people of Wales are so generous and have supported us tirelessly since our inception. Without the support of the Welsh public, we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today. We are the largest air ambulance service in the UK. With 24-hour operations on the horizon, we call on the people of Wales once again to help us reach this incredible milestone and allow us to be there for the people who need us most during the hours of darkness.

“Whether you’re an individual who wants to run a half marathon for us, hold a charity concert, attend a bucket collection, volunteer at one of our shops or just help us spread the good word of Wales Air Ambulance, every single bit of support we are given will help us reach the next exciting chapter.

“We are working closely with our medical partners, known as the ‘Welsh Flying Medics’, who have been exploring the out-of-hours demand to inform the type of service needed overnight. The service will evolve through a phased approach, the details of which are still to be confirmed. An announcement about that will be made at a later date.”

Angela added: “This is a huge step forward for the service but one we are confident we can achieve with the support of the Welsh public.”

The new 24/7 service will include road as well as air capability. As a precursor to the introduction of a 24/7 service, the ‘Welsh Flying Medics’ have already taken to the road overnight in a Rapid Response Vehicle. Last winter and this winter, the ‘Twilight Critical Care Car’ has run over weekends between 2pm and 2am. It was introduced to help the increased demand for emergency care in South Wales during the pressurised winter months and includes the same emergency department-standard care as the daytime service.

As well as offering additional care for the people of Wales and easing pressure on frontline services, the ‘Twilight Critical Care Car’ has also provided evidence to support the need for a permanent 24/7 air ambulance service.

One patient who benefited from the ‘Twilight Service’ is Ellie Harris. Find out more about Ellie's story here.