Welcome, from our CEO
The year 2020 was supposed to be one of celebration for our charity, marking our 30th year of operation. What transpired instead nobody could have predicted.
The Coronavirus pandemic understandably changed our celebratory year; we had to cancel our events and charity staff were forced to work from home or go on furlough.
Nevertheless, our aircrew has continued to respond throughout the pandemic, altering their operations suitably to ensure they can still be there for the people of Wiltshire and surrounding areas, including Bath.
It still costs us £3.75 million each year to provide our lifesaving service and, understandably, that becomes challenging when a pandemic plunges the country into financial difficulty.
That said, we have been taken aback by the response from our kind donors, who have surpassed all expectations for donations received in the past financial year. For that, we are so grateful.
The furlough scheme coupled with a one-off grant from the Government to all Air Ambulance charities has helped our cause, but we cannot rest on our laurels.
We have been forced to review our fundraising for the year ahead, in line with the numerous restrictions placed on gatherings for the foreseeable future, and going forwards will need to have an increased focus on digital – as we’re all now becoming used to things like Zoom and FaceTime these days!
Throughout this Lift Off Magazine you will find ways that you can support our service. We hope you will never need our service, but if you do, we will be there.
Saving lives in the face of a pandemic
When you’re a critical care paramedic, you need to be prepared for any situation. However, the challenges thrust upon us in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic were simply unprecedented and forced some adjustments in our operations.
Although we remained on the front line throughout the pandemic, ensuring we could be there for the people of Wiltshire and surrounding areas, including Bath, it certainly tested our staff.
The number of incidents we were called to varied dramatically throughout the year. During the national lockdown in March and April we saw incident numbers decrease, but as restrictions began to ease, there was a strong increase in the need for our lifesaving work.
We had to adapt our helicopter to place an isolation seal between the cockpit and the medical cabin to allow our pilots to fly safely without the need to wear PPE in case we needed to airlift a patient who was Coronavirus positive.
We were well stocked in most areas of PPE, but if there was something we needed, local people and businesses were able to help out with kind donations.
Thanks to the Big Give campaign the previous year, we even had enough mechanical ventilators to help out our friends at the Royal United Hospital in Bath (pictured right) by loaning them two ventilators for use in their emergency department.
I’m so proud of the way everyone in the team has coped in the face of this awful pandemic and I’m sure it will only make us strong and more resilient to future challenges thrown our way.
More importantly, thank you to everyone who has continued to support our work with donations during this very difficult time.
You are lifesavers!
The Lottery where everyone wins!
Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s Lottery and Superdraw helps to generate around £1.1 million each year towards our lifesaving work. With around 40,000 entries into the draws each week, approximately 1 in 10 households in Wiltshire participates by paying as little as £1 per week.
For those who play the Lottery, there’s a weekly cash prize of £1,000 up for grabs, with four additional winners banking £25 each. It costs an extra £1 to play the weekly Superdraw – but the rolling jackpot can reach £25,000, so there’s certainly every reason to get involved!
The Lottery began in 2009 and, up to this point, has generated around £7.5 million for the charity. Most importantly, every entry into the Lottery and Superdraw helps goes towards saving lives across Wiltshire and surrounding areas.
He snapped both bones – tibia and fibula – in his lower leg, resulting in an open fracture. A land ambulance attended and the crew treated him, but due to the nature of the break Wiltshire Air Ambulance was dispatched.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s paramedics are specialists in critical care and the crew gave Steve a strong drug, Ketamine, to sedate him. This allowed the crew to straighten his leg and splint it in order to improve blood circulation to his lower leg and foot.
Steve, who was aged 62 at the time of the accident, said:
"Until my fall I had walked our dogs on the same route round my village for 27 years. I was 150 yards from home when I fell. It was frosty and I slipped."
Villagers who saw Wiltshire Air Ambulance land in a nearby field assisted the crew by carrying Steve on a stretcher to the helicopter. Steve was airlifted to the Royal United Hospital in Bath in just six minutes. Later the same day Steve was transferred to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, for further treatment.
“The break was a nasty one and the consultant surgeon warned me that I might lose my leg.”
Steve underwent a ten-hour operation two days later and a rod was put in his leg, together with a metal plate and screws.
Skin was also taken from his thigh to graft on to the wound and for some time doctors were worried that an infection could get into the bone.
Steve was discharged from hospital after three weeks. He had a cast on his leg and was unable to weight bear for several weeks. He used a zimmer frame, then crutches and finally a walking stick. He underwent physiotherapy and began walking unaided seven months later.
Steve, who is retired, said: “When the consultant told me that I could lose my leg I pledged that if the operation went well I would go to Cornwall with my wife, Chris, and our dogs to go walking. Thankfully, I achieved this.
“Back at home I’m building up my daily walks with Chris and our dogs."
Chris has fundraised for Wiltshire Air Ambulance on her Facebook page following Steve’s accident and the couple plan to leave a gift in their Wills to the charity. Steve said:
“Without Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the orthopaedic surgeons at Southmead Hospital I’m certain the outcome would have been very different. Wiltshire Air Ambulance will be a beneficiary in our Wills because they are self-funded and they need every penny in order to help other people.”
“It’s remarkable how much you take for granted in life. What happened to me was a wake up call, it has made me realised how lucky I am.
Until my accident I went through life not thinking I would need Wiltshire Air Ambulance, but how lucky I was that it was there for me when I needed it.”
Steve and Chris visited Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s airbase, in Semington, a year after Steve’s accident where they met James Hubbard (right, pre-COVID), one of the critical care paramedics who was part of crew that treated him.
"Meeting James was terrific and I thanked him and his colleagues for helping me. We are very impressed with the charity’s airbase and seeing how the paramedics and pilots work. I’m in awe of what they do, but they are only able to do that because of donations the charity receives."
Educating the next generation about lifesaving
Wiltshire Air Ambulance launched its Emergency Awareness Training programme in 2019 and, to date, it has been delivered to 125 schools, over 13,000 school children and students.
The programme showcases the importance of recognising a person in cardiac arrest and teaches CPR. Unfortunately, around 30,000 people every year suffer a sudden cardiac arrest and without immediate treatment, 90-95% of casualties will die.
Emergency Awareness Training is delivered at schools and colleges across Wiltshire to pupils and students, aged from four to 18 years of age.
The programme also includes using an AED (automated external defibrillator), managing a choking/bleeding patient and placing an unconscious patient in the recovery position.
The programme is led by training officer Simon Stigwood (pictured right), a Wiltshire-based paramedic with over 15 years’ experience. He says:
"It’s rewarding engaging with young people and they have enjoyed learning new skills to preserve life and promote recovery. We tailor the sessions to different age groups and the needs of the schools.
“Many of the schools who have taken part have gone on to fundraise for Wiltshire Air Ambulance which we are so grateful for.
“It is our ambition to teach every school age child in Wiltshire how to deliver CPR and other emergency skills. Our programme is a really valuable outreach project delivering vital lifesaving skills.
“We hope that in the event of a medical emergency the pupils we train will have the knowledge and confidence to respond accordingly and ultimately their actions may help to save lives."
If you’re part of a school or college that would like more information about our Emergency Awareness Training programme, please click below to get in touch.
Last year Wiltshire Air Ambulance partnered with Recycling Solutions to install charity clothing banks across the county.
It gives people the opportunity to recycle clothing and shoes they no longer want at convenient locations – with 37 clothing banks now in place, stretching from Swindon to Salisbury, Wiltshire Air Ambulance fundraising manager Des Regan says:
“We’re delighted to be working with Recycling Solutions, who are experts in this field. Ultimately the clothing banks will help reduce the amount of textile waste going to landfill and the money raised will help to fund our lifesaving work.”
This is seen as a long-term sustainable revenue stream for Wiltshire Air Ambulance. Each month, on average, over 10 tonnes of clothing and shoes are diverted away from landfill, in turn generating £3,500 for the charity.
Head to our new Online Shop to browse our full range of merchandise.
This year we've even made items from our Charity Shop available to purchase online. This includes clothing for men, women and children, plus other seasonal items. Why not take a look today?
Our Charity Shop in Devizes can be found at 2 Maryport Street, SN10 1AH. In line with the latest Government restrictions, our shop is closed and we are not accepting any donations at present. We will keep our website updated with any provisional re-opening dates and the reintroduction of our donations process.
In the meantime, you can still purchase charity shop items and merchandise on our online shop.
We've been named Team of the Year!
Wiltshire Air Ambulance has won the Team of the Year award from The Business Exchange at their annual Reward ceremony.
The independent business magazine for Wiltshire, Bath and Somerset took their annual awards event into the virtual world to celebrate the best achievements of the charity and non-profit sector from across the South West in 2020.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance was named as the winner of the Team of the Year award, with the judges praising the charity’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Our charity was up against Prospect Hospice, We Get It and Whale & Dolphin Conservation for the honour.