We’d like to take this opportunity to update you on the ongoing analysis of our air ambulance service.

As mentioned last week, there is an extensive ongoing analysis looking at whether we can reach more of the seriously ill and injured patients in Wales with the valuable Charity and NHS resources that we receive. We have already made great progress with this in the last few years by optimising the base locations that we work from and adding an overnight operation. The current analysis process is about making the most of the resources that we have and has never been about financial savings or cuts in service delivery. We planned to embark on a process of engagement once the analysis was fully complete. However, the media has received some information and asked us to respond to specific questions which have been answered with the available information.

One issue of concern that has arisen as we looked at some of the questions that have been asked of us is the understanding of the service that we currently deliver, and we will be doing more to share this information with you over the coming months. The concept of the air ambulance being solely about speed and swift transfer to hospital has now been replaced with a primary mission to get advanced medical interventions directly to people in their own communities. All over the UK, air ambulances now operate a ‘critical care’ model taking a team of highly qualified medics to the scene to deliver emergency department-standard critical care before transfer to an appropriate hospital. Rest assured, this evolution of air ambulances across the UK, and here in Wales, has not diminished the air ambulance service available to you: it has enhanced it, meaning we are saving more lives than ever. Response time, when looked at in isolation, does not reflect the fact that we are taking the hospital to you – wherever you are. This reduces the overall time in receiving critical care treatments and speeds up recovery.

We have also received many questions with regards to the operational delivery of the proposed service configuration. As we are collating these questions we can see that many of them have similar themes. Therefore, we will create a Frequently Asked Questions section on the Charity website where we will answer these enquiries for everybody to see. This is the most efficient way of responding as we are small organisations and answering each individual enquiry will move valuable resources away from the day-to-day tasks required to keep our lifesaving service functioning.

Again, both the Charity and EMRTS are small organisations and the volume of demand for information and discussion over the past week has drawn our attention away from the extensive engagement process that we had been planning before the information leak. Whilst responding to the concerns raised and media enquiries was important, this has been at the expense of communicating with those bodies and representatives who would normally have been expected to have been involved in our engagement activities from the outset. Both the Wales Air Ambulance Charity and EMRTS will now continue with that planned process, which will involve conversations with a range of relevant organisations, across Wales, which represent your counties and communities.

As we have stated previously, the in-depth analysis is being conducted by the Charity’s medical partners EMRTS and an external data modelling organisation. As an NHS Wales service, EMRTS also has an engagement process it has to follow, alongside supporting the Charity with its engagement. This is also in progress.

We will publish information about the engagement process and timescales in the near future.

Our service remit is to attend life or limb-threatening emergencies across Wales.

This is not a conversation about regions gaining or losing out. There are no county boundaries when it comes to saving lives.

Every life matters to us – and the analysis presented to us is showing that every county will positively benefit from the proposed changes. It is our job, as part of our mission, to explore any analysis which tells us we can save more lives.

For the Charity and EMRTS to deliver its mission and vision, we have to find the most effective way of using our resources to deliver the best possible care to the whole population of Wales. The analysis we have received suggests that we could, by changing the way we use current resources, get to more patients who need us and save more lives.

It’s important to remember that we all have one thing in common. We love the Wales Air Ambulance, what it does and what it stands for.

We very much look forward to our future engagement with you.

Dr Sue Barnes
Chief Executive, Wales Air Ambulance

Professor David Lockey
National Director, Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS)