Air ambulance appeal for vital funds

PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 January 2013

John Christensen welcomed John Penrose to GWAAC's Filton base this week. Picture supplied by GWAAC

John Christensen welcomed John Penrose to GWAAC's Filton base this week. Picture supplied by GWAAC


A LIFESAVING charity is in ‘very real danger’ unless people raise money to keep it operational.

Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) is trying to raise £250,000 to lease a new helicopter and wants people to hold fundraisers in February on its behalf.

John Christensen, chief executive for the charity, said the Love Your Air Ambulance month could have a vital impact on the charity’s work.

GWAAC annually attends about 1,400 incidents and is reliant on £1.5million worth of donations each year because it receives no Government or National Lottery funding. It is believed that one in five extra lives would be lost if GWAAC folded.

Despite the great work the charity currently conducts across the South West, including in North Somerset, it is facing mounting problems over its current Bölkow 105 helicopter.

A GWAAC spokesman said the 1960s aircraft was reaching the end of its service.

He said: “There is a very real danger it will soon be too old for use as an air ambulance.

“We are now the last air ambulance charity in the UK to rely exclusively on an aircraft this old. It has served the region valiantly, but it is reaching the end of its life.”

The charity wants to lease a Eurocopter EC 135 helicopter which would enable critical care teams to reach the scene four minutes faster, allow more equipment on board and give space for a passenger to accompany a patient.

Currently the Movin’ On Up campaign has raised about half of the £250,000 necessary to lease the new helicopter.

Mr Christensen said: “During February, we are encouraging local businesses, schools and community groups to love their air ambulance by wearing red or pink for a dress down day, by holding a raffle of a heart-themed cake sale.

“The air ambulance attends on average one cardiac arrest per day. With hearts and love normally at the forefront of people’s minds during February as a result of Valentine’s Day, we thought this would be the perfect time to remind the 2.1 million people of our region that in order to keep operating our charity relies on their support.

“You never know when you might need us, and that’s why it’s so important for people to support our cause and help keep our air ambulance flying.”

Weston MP John Penrose threw his support behind the Movin on Up campaign when he visited GWAAC’s Filton base this week.

He said: “They work closely in partnership with the NHS to provide this vital emergency service, which is heavily used and essential to patient recovery.

“They can bring the hospital to the patient, giving access to lifesaving care much faster.”

For more information on the Love Your Air Ambulance month contact Emma Carter on 03034 444999 or email

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