Emergency cover in Scotland is set to be enhanced as the country’s only charity-funded helicopter air ambulance extends its operational hours.
Starting this weekend, Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) will operate a 12 hour shift each day – adding two hours to its current life-saving service.
SCAA, supported by public donations, has committed funding to cover the additional £150,000 needed to extend their online operations for its first year. This includes the cost of recruiting a sixth paramedic to support crew shifts.
David Craig, SCAA chief executive, explained that extending their operating hours by 20 per cent could result in more lives saved and improved across Scotland.
He said: “Since 2013, SCAA has responded to hundreds of time-critical emergencies across the whole of Scotland, 10 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “When a shift ends, however, so does our response capability.
“Thanks to the generosity of a very supportive public in Scotland, we now have the resources to extend our crew’s shift to their maximum 12 hours,” he explained. “This has the potential to see us respond to even more emergencies within that expanded timeframe.”
Mr Craig said the impact of the new hours would be reviewed constantly and fully assessed after six months. And he stressed that the need for support goes on.
“SCAA can fly expert paramedic care quickly to the scene of any emergency and airlift patients rapidly to advanced hospital care,” he explained, “but we can only do so if the public continues to support us as they have to date. Their generous donations mean we can now provide an enhanced life-saving service for the people of Scotland.”
The charity has to raise over £2 million a year to keep the rapid-response service in the air. Tasked through the 999 system, SCAA works alongside the Government-funded air ambulances to provide cover across the whole of Scotland and its islands.
Andy Moir, head of the Air Ambulance Service in Scotland, said the charity operation fulfilled a vital role.
“For nearly four years SCAA has been fully integrated into our fleet of air ambulances, playing a vital role in the country’s emergency air ambulance response capability,” he said.
“The additional availability each day brings extra resilience to the Service and offers the potential to save and improve even more lives.
“The growth of SCAA also demonstrates the success of this ongoing NHS Scotland and third sector partnership, which is unique in the UK.”