Sussex was one of only a few counties in the UK that did not have its own dedicated Helicopter Emergency Medical Service – HEMS, but this all changed in June 2007!
The Sussex Air Ambulance Appeal was launched in June 2005 by local actress Penelope Keith CBE. The appeal target was set at a quarter of a million pounds. The emergency helicopter was launched by a host of celebrities including Penelope Keith and Bernard Cribbins on June 8th 2007.
Responding swiftly to 999 calls, air ambulances are able to deliver a medical crew to the scene of an accident or medical emergency and to transport patients to the nearest major hospital or specialist unit, in a fraction of the time taken by a land ambulance. Sussex has a complete HEMS Service (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service), and employ’s the highest possible clinical standards in pre hospital care.
There are currently 15 independent air ambulance operators, all of which are registered charities and funded entirely by charitable donations, receiving no Government or National Lottery funding.
The new HEMS service, is based at Dunsfold Park, flying fast, direct and unhindered at over 150 miles per hour, the entire county can be reached in minutes.
However the challenge now, is to meet the yearly running costs of approximately £1.7 million to provide Sussex and neighboring Surrey with an emergency helicopter service, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
A Typical Day for Sussex Air Ambulance
When the Sussex Air Ambulance was called to Brighton this morning (July 12) it took the helicopter just 25 minutes to get to the scene from its base at Dunsfold near Horsham – a journey that would have taken more than an hour by road.
The pilot, doctor and paramedic were called to a motorist trapped following a road traffic collision involving a skip lorry and a van on the A27 near Hollingbury. The helicopter landed on the eastbound carriageway while the westbound side, where the collision happened, was closed by police. There were three casualties, one of whom was ejected from the vehicle, and the Sussex Air Ambulance patient was a male in his 50s who had to be cut free by firefighters.
The doctor and paramedic on board the helicopter spent an hour treating him at the scene, such was the severity of his injuries, before airlifting him to the major trauma centre at King’s College Hospital in London.
This was the 365th call-out so far this year and more than 40 per cent are to RTCs while 20 per cent are to medical emergencies such as cardiac arrests and industrial accidents. The helicopter is also often called to remote and inaccessible areas such as the South Downs to rescue fallen horse riders, mountain bike riders and walkers.
Sussex Air Ambulance flies fast, direct and un-hindered and takes A&E to the scene of an accident or emergency. The highly-skilled specialist doctor and critical care paramedic on board can carry out advanced medical procedures at the scene, giving patients the best chance and quality of survival.
Just ask Neil Akers who survived a serious motorbike accident at Devil’s Dyke three years ago and has now joined the charity as a volunteer. He said: “If it wasn’t for the Sussex Air Ambulance, I would not have survived.” Neil suffered brain damage, a fractured left arm including severe nerve damage, a collapsed right lung, a ruptured left knee, two broken ribs and a broken finger. He was semi-conscious and had to be anaesthetised, intubated and ventilated at the road-side. He was then airlifted to the major trauma centre at Royal London Hospital where he spent eight days in a coma but has since made a remarkable recovery. He added: “The doctors said I’m lucky to be alive. It’s amazing that I’m still here really. “Sussex Air Ambulance is a very good charity but everyone just expects these services to be there for them.”
The life-saving helicopter relies almost entirely on public donations and receives no National Lottery funding. Most of its income is from fundraising including corporate sponsorship from local businesses, clubs and organisations who choose Sussex Air Ambulance as their Charity of the Year.
Teams of work colleagues, family or friends are currently needed to take part in the Air Ambulance’s annual Dragon Boat Racing at Bewl Water on September 17 and 18.
To enter a team or for more information call Amy Salter on 01622 833833.
Can you Volunteer?
Sussex Air Ambulance is also appealing for volunteers who can help out in many ways including placing and emptying collection tins, attending cheque presentations, giving talks, holding collections at supermarkets and by selling stock and merchandise at fundraising events
Volunteering is a great way to “give something back” to the community, meet new people or gain work experience.
If you would like to support us through your workplace, book a talk for your group or society, or become a volunteer please call East Sussex County Fundraiser Bridget Pepper on 07800 649246 or visit www.sussexairambulance.co.uk.