East Anglian Air Ambulance responds to trial by media

East Anglian Air Ambulance responds to trial by media 27 Oct, 10, Source: EAAA

[The Magpas statement referred to was run by HeliHub.com here]

The East Anglian Air Ambulance was dismayed to read the press statement issued by Magpas which made many erroneous statements about the EAAA’s work and future direction. We have detailed below a more accurate view of our aims and strategy and are happy to provide any further information on request.

1. It has always been our stated goal to ensure that the air ambulance service we provide across Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire is of the highest possible standard. As we work to achieve this, we’ve worked closely with stakeholders across the region including the East of England Ambulance Trust, our neighbouring air ambulance services in Essex and Hertfordshire and Magpas.

2. The single most important difference we can make to help us save more lives across the region is to provide salaried professional doctors on board all flights made by our two aircraft, Anglia One and Anglia Two. We have been talking about our plans to move to this model for over a year. While we have the highest respect for Magpas doctors, this is something we have found to be unsustainable working with Magpas’ volunteer based organisation

3. To help us achieve this goal, after a considered tender process in which Magpas was invited to participate but declined, we have opted to work with a company called EMSC, which has a substantial track record in the air ambulance sector. It provides clinical governance services to the highly experienced NHS doctors serving aboard the Essex and Hertfordshire air ambulance, and the Kent, Surrey and Sussex air ambulances.

4. Working with EMSC ensures that we can commit to providing the clinical governance support to the highly experienced specialist doctors on board both aircraft 365 days a year. This is in-line with best practice recommendations for air ambulances documented in ‘Framework for a high performing Air Ambulance Service’ published in 2008. We believe working with EMSC offers the potential to provide a fully regional service which operates to nationally recognised clinical standards and provides a model which offers the possibility for flexibility and collaboration across the region. This will be a benefit to everyone in the current climate and – most importantly – it will raise the bar on the service we are currently offering and help us save more lives.

5. Contrary to its claims, working with Magpas is not ‘free’ for the EAAA. While the organisation’s doctors are volunteers, we do have to bear other costs to work with it. These include the £132,000 it costs to shuttle Anglia Two between its base at The Marshall Airport and Magpas’ operating base at RAF Wyton every morning and evening. We also bear the costs of having an aircraft and pilot available but having to stand down on days when no Magpas crew is available. These costs amount to at least a further £100,000 per year. While we will now be paying the NHS for doctors aboard our aircraft, we believe we can raise the necessary funds to do this and that it will enable us to deliver the most effective life-saving service possible.

6. Magpas refers to the fact that EMSC is not accredited by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). In fact the CQC has informed the Association of Air Ambulances (AAA), the trade body representing air ambulance charities, that it will not have the necessary framework in place to audit air ambulances for at least another year. When it does, we will certainly apply for registration. However as EMSC provides clinical governance services and not doctors it is not required by the CQC to be registered.

7. Magpas also claims that operating Anglia Two from The Marshall Airport in Cambridge will ‘put lives at risk in the north, especially in high population areas like Peterborough.’ No part of the region we cover will be adversely affected by moving the operations of the aircraft to The Marshall Airport. We are working to enhance the service we offer, not weaken it and, by collaborating with other air ambulance services in the region, we believe we will, in fact, be able to offer a better level of access to the service for everyone living in the region

The East Anglian Air Ambulance has been saving lives in the region since 2000 and has worked collaboratively with Magpas for much of that time. We’re disappointed that it has taken the decision to issue a misleading press release regarding our operations which is clearly designed to cause concern among our many loyal supporters and damage the charity’s reputation.
Ultimately we are sure they would agree with us that we both wish to see the best possible service for saving lives and we must put the needs of the casualties we attend above everything. This is what we are striving to do in the actions we take.

The EAAA, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2010 has expanded significantly since it was launched with one aircraft, thanks to the generous support of thousands of individuals, businesses and community groups across East Anglia. Despite receiving no direct government funding, it now operates two advanced air ambulances in the UK, 365 days per year, across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. During its first ten years, its aircraft and their highly skilled clinical crews, have helped to save hundreds of lives and improved the outcomes of many other victims of accidents and medical emergencies.

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