Flying in to Help the Emergency Services

The North West Air Ambulance (NWAA) has been flying critically ill and severely injured people to hospitals since 1999.

Operating from bases at Manchester City and Blackpool Airports, the NWAA covers an area of 5,500 square miles and a population of 8 million people, and is called out on average five times a day (up to ten times in the summer). In the first seven months of this year, the charity had completed over 850 missions.

The NWAA has a special part to play in the area’s emergency service provision. If a patient has suffered a major trauma, especially to the spine or head, he or she can be treated immediately by paramedics in the helicopter and taken to hospital within what is known as ‘the golden hour’ – greatly improving his or her chances of recovery. Wherever the patient is picked up from, the NWAA helicopter flies high over the traffic and is never more than ten minutes away from the nearest hospital. The NWAA also moves patients between hospitals, if doctors decide that emergency treatment a long distance away is necessary.

The three-tonne helicopters of the NWAA are compact and specially equipped for medical treatment. They can fly for up to two hours without refuelling, are highly manoeuvrable and open up for stretcher access on both sides and at the back. The NWAA’s three helicopter pilots are all ex-military personnel, with vast experience and precision flying skills second to none. The paramedics are seconded for two years from the NHS ambulance service, which gives them a good opportunity to be trained in extra skills like dealing with extreme trauma, air navigation, aircraft loading and so on. The one thing the staff all share is the desire to help people and save lives – something that they do together every day.

It costs over £4.3 million every year to run the NWAA, and it may surprise you that the service receives no statutory funding. The charity relies heavily on fundraising, which is why they are always on the lookout for people who want to help. Perhaps you could host a party, sell your second-hand goods, raise sponsorship to run a 10K or abseil down a cliff? The NWAA is looking for volunteers so if you have a few spare hours please get in touch.