Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

‘We are out there on the front line’: Scotland’s charity air ambulance crew celebrates seven years of saving lives

Post Thumbnail

Deer herds are a common sight in the Argyll countryside. It is believed there are about 750,000 of them, nearly nine times the area’s human population.

Naturally, their abundance makes them easy to spot – but spot them too late and you might be in trouble.

Senior pilot Russell Myles and lead paramedic John Pritchard

Just ask hospital worker Patrica McKenzie, who was driving along narrow country roads near Dunoon on May 23, 2013.

A deer stepped into the path of her car, causing her to swerve off the road, crash through a bush and career down a steep slope.

The mother-of-one suffered a deep cut to her right arm and was bleeding heavily.

Passers-by raised the alarm and called for an ambulance. However, the nearest hospital was more than two hours away.

It was decided this was an emergency that required a new kind of response.

Unwittingly, Patricia made history that day by becoming patient number one for the country’s first ever charity air ambulance.

SCAA chairman John Bullough

Paramedics took her by road to Dunoon, where the Perth-based SCAA (Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance) team met her and loaded her into the helicopter. She was in Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital within quarter-of-an-hour.

SCAA’s lead paramedic John Pritchard remembered: “We had only been live for 24 hours, and this was our first call.

“I just remember my heart was absolutely racing. We had been training and practising for a while but this was it, this was the real thing.”

The launch of SCAA’s Helimed 76 in Aberdeen. Crew pictured from left, Captain Shaun Rose, John Prtichard, Matt Allan, Webndy Jubb, Darren OBrien, Julia Barnes, Rich Garside and Captain Alex Blaikley

He said Patricia had suffered traumatic, albeit non-life threatening, injuries. “Our intervention was definitely needed to get her to hospital as quickly as possible.

“What we do touches so many people. It’s not just the patients, it’s their grandparents, their best friends, their workmates – everyone who knows them. We are always conscious about that.”

This week, SCAA celebrated its seventh anniversary. While the Perth Airport service is still operational during lockdown – with “masses” of new procedures to keep staff and patients safe in the helicopter – Covid-19 restrictions have put a stop to the traditional birthday celebrations and, more importantly, fundraising events.

It costs about £4 million a year to fund the two air ambulances at Perth and Aberdeen and, with no statutory government funding, every penny comes from donations.

Chairman John Bullough said he is confident the Scottish public will not abandon “the people’s helicopter” during the pandemic and he has been impressed by the inventive ways people have continued raising cash.

SCAA went live on May 22, 2013 – the day before Patricia McKenzie had a close call with a Dunoon deer – but the hugely ambitious plan to establish the country’s first charity-funded helicopter rescue crew began several years earlier.

“Back in 2008, the conception of the charity was the joint vision of several businessmen from various backgrounds,” said John.

“We all had experience of how important helicopters could be in saving and improving lives. Personally, as a retired soldier and current volunteer police officer, I had seen first hand people saved by the intervention of helicopters, and sadly saw people die because there were none available.”

At that time, there were two state-funded air ambulances covering all of Scotland’s 30,000 square miles, plus 100 or so inhabited islands. In England and Wales, there were 33.

“It’s an interesting comparison, given that Scotland has some of the most remote communities and dangerous roads in the whole of Europe. In England and Wales, you’re never too far from an accident and emergency ward.”

The concept was presented to billionaire businessman Brian Soutar and his sister Ann Gloag, as well as local corporation SSE.

“All of them supported the idea. That gave me the confidence at a very early stage to say that this was not only a good idea, but it was a fundable one.”

It took more than three years to get the full backing of the NHS and the Scottish Government.

“To bring such a huge service like this to the market was always going to be a disruptive process, we knew it was going to be difficult and there were definitely a few who were rightly proud of the existing, state-run services and questioned if an additional service would save more lives. Evidence has clearly shown that it has.”

Since launch, the SCAA crews has been called out more than 2,400 times – an average of about one a day.

In January 2014, the MMB Bo 105 craft completed its 200th mission.  A year later, it was announced that £3.3 million of cash from the Libor banking scandal would pay for a new, bigger replacement helicopter.

The upgraded Eurocopter EC135 was launched in October 2015, and by March the following year it was involved in the charity’s 1,000th call out.

Earlier this year, the charity unveiled its second helicopter – callsign Helimed 79 – at Aberdeen Airport.

It’s launch on April 3 came as everything else was shutting down because of coronavirus.

John said: “This was a very significant milestone for the charity, and it is a great testament to the generosity of the people of Scotland that we are able to deliver it.

“There was a suggestion that we should delay the launch because of Covid, but also because we still hadn’t met our fundraising target.

“But Hemimed 79 has already saved and improved lives in its first month, and clearly those people may not have survived had we not launched when we did.”

He said: “We are out there on the front line and when we need to go, we go.”