13-May-2014 Source: East Anglian Air Ambulance
The East Anglian Air Ambulance has appointed its first Medical Director with Mr Alastair Wilson joining to lead the clinical team, working alongside Brig. Professor Tim Hodgetts who has responsibility for Clinical Quality and Development.
Mr Wilson has an impressive background in Accident and Emergency medicine and in the delivery of emergency medical care by the roadside, founding the London Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), which has just celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Although much of his career was spent at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, from where he retired as a consultant in the Accident and Emergency Department last year, Mr Wilson has been associated with EAAA for some time before this appointment as a member of the charity’s operations committee. He has lived in West Norfolk for the last 15 years.
Mr Wilson is relishing the new challenge of Medical Director and is committed to ensuring that every detail of a patient’s treatment is the very best it can be. He said: “The EAAA thrives on its reputation and we must make sure that everything we do is of the highest quality. I want to make sure that there are no impediments to a patient getting the best treatment.”
Having studied medicine in Aberdeen, as a junior surgeon in London confronted with a young child with a serious chest injury, he recognised that doctors didn’t always manage trauma well. None of his senior colleagues were happy to perform surgery on the child. Mr Wilson realised that trauma care in the UK had to improve.
When offered a post as a consultant surgeon at the Royal London’s A & E department, he agreed to take the post only if he was allowed to develop a trauma system and start a HEMS operation.
So, back in the 1980s Dr Wilson started lobbying for London to have an air ambulance. He found an ally at the highest possible level when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher supported the idea and before long the proposal was becoming a reality with generous backing from Express Newspapers. However, in the early days the fledgling service had many hurdles to overcome when the local authority – Tower Hamlets – took out an injunction to stop the helicopter landing at the hospital because of concerns from local residents about the noise. There were also concerns that the helicopter would direct injured patients away from small casualty departments that might close as a result.
Today Mr Wilson’s vision for trauma care is as strong as it ever was. He commented: “86% of people who die from trauma die from a head injury – and so we have to make sure that we can get a patients directly to neurosurgical centres avoiding delays in other hospitals. I will spend my time working with hospitals to ensure this happens.
“Trauma is a disease of time. Any delay in emergency treatment is harmful and we must avoid it.”
The Royal London and other hospitals in the capital had their trauma abilities tested to their very limit in July 2005. Mr Wilson was the medical incident director at ‘The London’ when the 7/7 suicide bombers struck. The attacks on three tube trains and a bus killed 52 people and injured many more. Mr Wilson was one of the many medics, along with transport and emergency services staff who were recognised by The Queen for their efforts on that day. He was awarded the OBE.
Having lived in Norfolk for as long as the EAAA service has been operating Mr Wilson has always taken an interest in its work. Now he says he takes great pleasure in being part of the air ambulance community and will enjoy working with people who are forward thinking in trauma.
The charity’s interim Chief Operating Officer Melanie Nightingale is delighted that he has joined the team. She said: “Alastair has a very impressive track record not just in accident and emergency medicine but also in his work with a busy air ambulance service. He’s also held a number of important national and international positions including President of the European Association of Trauma and Emergency Surgery and has twice been President of the British Trauma Society. EAAA is extremely fortunate to have someone of his calibre on board.”
One of the things that has impressed Mr Wilson about the Dr Alastair Wilson, EAAA Medical DirectorEAAA is the very genuine and generous support that the charity receives. He concluded: “The enthusiasm for the organisation reflects in what the charity is able to achieve, and the involvement of the community allows for conversation between the people on the ground raising money and the medical team. We need to reduce death and injury in East Anglia and we have to do that together.”