Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA) has been operating since 1990, but 2015 was the first year as a stand-alone air ambulance using its own new state-of-the-art helicopter, a Bell 429. For the previous 24 years WAA shared a helicopter with Wiltshire Police.
From when the charity began using the Bell 429 helicopter on 9 January 2015 to 8 January 2016, WAA was called out to 537 incidents, an increase of 51 on the year January to December 2014.
The largest number of call outs, 167, were to cardiac arrests, up from 139 in 2014. The number of Road Traffic Collisions was 145, up from 132 in 2014.
Other missions included 56 sporting injuries, 35 falls, 24 horse riding injuries and 6 industrial incidents. WAA Critical Care Paramedics also gave pre-hospital blood transfusions to 10 patients since August, when it began carrying blood on board the helicopter and Rapid Response Vehicle (car).
Pete Burch, 27, of Ashurst, Hampshire, was seriously injured when he was involved in a collision on his motorcycle while on a ride out with friends and his father on the A30 just outside Salisbury on 7 March 2015.
WAA flew him to Southampton General Hospital, a major trauma centre in six minutes. He underwent nine hours of surgery to reattach his left arm. He was discharged three weeks later and has undergone extensive therapy for his injuries.
Pete, who now fundraises for the charity, said: “Without question Wiltshire Air Ambulance saved my life. I have been told by the crew that I would not have survived the 20 minute road journey in an ambulance to Salisbury Hospital, which was the nearest hospital. As it happened I needed a major trauma department, the closest being an hours drive away in Southampton. The six minute flight to Southampton General Hospital is the only reason I am still alive.”
The speed of the Bell 429 and expertise of the air ambulance crew also proved lifesaving for Adam Gibbs, 17, of Pewsham, Chippenham. He went to Chippenham Hospital’s Minor Injury Unit after he injured his abdomen while riding his bicycle on 16 June 2015.
Concerned staff called WAA and the paramedics suspected internal bleeding. Adam was stabilised and flown to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, in 12 minutes. He underwent surgery on a ruptured spleen soon after his arrival. He was discharged after six days and was able to attend his end of year prom at Abbeyfield School, Chippenham, 10 days later.
His mum, Pippa Gibbs, said: “Adam’s condition was life threatening. He was deteriorating while the air ambulance was carrying him. As a family we are beyond grateful. Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a brilliant service, we are so thankful to have it. Adam is fully recovered and enjoying life. He passes on his thanks as he is now able to attend Wiltshire College studying Level 3 games development and working part-time at Wetherspoons in Chippenham.”
As a stand-alone air ambulance WAA has two highly trained paramedics on board, able to carry out surgical techniques on critically injured or ill patients by the roadside and to administer additional drugs for pain relief or sedation.
Wiltshire remains the only air ambulance in the UK to use a Bell 429 helicopter. The state-of-the-art helicopter is faster than the previous helicopters WAA has used, enabling a rapid response to incidents within minutes. The Charity leases the Bell 429 from Heli Charter.
David Philpott, Chief Executive of WAA, said: “All of us in the charity team, the aircrew and our volunteers are proud to provide an essential helicopter emergency service for people living, working and travelling through Wiltshire and surrounding counties.
“The Bell 429 is a modern and faster helicopter and we are pleased with how it has performed. It goes without saying that we can only provide an air ambulance service because of the generosity of the public, businesses and grant making trusts, who raise funds for us day in and day out. On behalf of everyone at Wiltshire Air Ambulance, thank you for your continued support.”