Wiltshire Air Ambulance has been saving lives for over 30 years – and continues to be needed now more than ever before. The charity started out in 1990 and for 24 years shared a helicopter with Wiltshire Police before becoming a stand-alone air ambulance in January 2015. After having bases in Devizes (for the aircrew) and Calne (for the charity team), the charity moved into its own purpose-built airbase in May 2018, for the first time bringing everyone together under one roof.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s paramedics are trained in critical care skills and, together with the specialist medical equipment they use, bring gold standard medical care to the most seriously injured and ill patients. The service is operational for up to 19 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Each year Wiltshire Air Ambulance needs to raise £3.75 million to continue flying and saving lives – that’s just over £10,000 a day. They receive no regular direct funding from the Government or National Lottery grants.
Instead, they rely on the generosity of the people and businesses across Wiltshire and surrounding areas, including Bath, to help generate the necessary funds.
Last year the Coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on the charity’s ability to fundraise, with a host of 30th birthday celebration events postponed or cancelled altogether.
Despite all that, as reported in the February edition of Swindon Link magazine, the need for Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s lifesaving service reached an all-time peak last year, with the charity called to record 1,238 incidents.
Across Swindon, Royal Wootton Bassett and Highworth, Wiltshire Air Ambulance attended 226 incidents (more than once every two days), as well as conveying 65 patients to the Great Western Hospital in the town.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance chief executive David Philpott says: “We continued to provide our lifesaving work throughout the pandemic, as well as supporting our colleagues in the NHS more widely.
“We had to make adaptations to our helicopter and the way we operate to ensure the safety of our crew and patients. The pilots and paramedics have been carrying out their important work in uncomfortable PPE for over a year now.
“However, at a time when we have been needed more than ever, we’ve seen our traditional fundraising hit by around £500,000 due to the Coronavirus-enforced lockdowns and the ban on mass participation events due to social distancing.
“We were fortunate that all air ambulance charities received a one-off grant from the Government. But without that grant, and money received through the furlough scheme, we would be in dire straits right now.
“The year 2021 remains a challenge for us as no more grants will be forthcoming, so we are hoping that our incredible supporters across Wiltshire and beyond will be able to rally behind us so our service doesn’t have to suffer.”
You can support Wiltshire Air Ambulance by joining their Lottery or by committing to a regular donation. Alternatively, text to WAA 70480 to donate £10 today (texts cost £10 plus your standard network charge).
To find out more, visit the charity’s website: www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk