Business as usual for Wiltshire Air Ambulance over festive season

By Barrie Hudson - 18 December 2020

CharityHealth

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance will be ready and waiting should it be needed over the Christmas period.

  • Pilot Rob Collingwood hopes everybody has a safe and happy Christmas

    Pilot Rob Collingwood hopes everybody has a safe and happy Christmas

The charity says Christmas will be a very different experience for people across the UK this year – but not for those operating the lifesaving service.

Although coronavirus restrictions will be relaxed slightly over the festive period to allow families to gather between 23 and 27 December, it won’t quite be the same as everyone has been accustomed to over the years.

However, for Wiltshire Air Ambulance it will be business as usual, with the aircrew fully operational and ready to respond to emergencies throughout the Christmas and New Year period.

Among the aircrew on duty on Christmas Day are critical care paramedics Craig Wilkins and James Hubbard, along with pilot Rob Collingwood.

Mr Wilkins, who will also be on shift during Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, said: “I hope on Christmas Day people in Wiltshire and surrounding areas have a peaceful and happy time, but we will be ready to respond should we be needed.

“This will be my eighth time working over the Christmas period in the past ten years, but I don’t mind that as I don’t have children. I think we accept with shift work that it is part of the job.

“Obviously everyone wants to spend Christmas together, but if this year has taught us anything, I think it’s important to get together whenever we can and cherish the time we do have with one another.”

He added: “We do like to decorate the flight room and make it feel all Christmassy. I’ll just have to shift my turkey dinner around; it’ll likely be a warmed up meal at my girlfriend’s parents instead!”

South Africa-born pilot Mr Collingwood, who has been at the charity for five years, said: “I’m usually up at 6.30am for day shifts and out of the door by 7.15am, but I may be woken a little earlier by our kids this year keen to open presents.

“I’m probably in the minority of pilots who prefer flying nights, especially at Christmas, as you can sneak out of the door after the lunch and before all the carnage, but I’m on the day shift this year.

“Hopefully we won’t be too busy and everyone can have a safe and happy Christmas. We’ve got a good crew on and we’ll have the Christmas hats and cheeky elves out; we’ll even try and squeeze in a lunch if the shift allows.”

Richard Miller, clinical services and ground base manager at the charity, said: “Our service operates every day so our pilots and specialist paramedics are ready to respond to emergency incidents, such as road traffic collisions, cardiac arrests and strokes, over the Christmas and New Year period.

“This has been a particularly challenging year for everyone at the charity. Our aircrew have seen alterations to the way we attend emergencies, including the use of PPE and a secure divider in our helicopter.

“However, we have been fully operational throughout the coronavirus pandemic to ensure we can be there for those who need us most.

“We are only able to provide our essential Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) thanks to people, businesses and grant-making trusts who donate and fundraise for us.”

The lifesaving service operates up to 19 hours a day, all year round, thanks to the generous donations received from the Wiltshire public and local businesses.

The charity receives no regular direct funding from the Government or National Lottery grants. It needs to raise £3.75 million each year to keep flying and saving lives.

With all fundraising events cancelled or postponed this year due to the pandemic, Wiltshire Air Ambulance has needed the support of the public more than ever.

People can play the charity’s weekly Lottery and Superdraw or donate via the charity’s website - www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk

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