From social responsibility to medical innovation
Behind our charity is a vision of social and medical innovation derived from a strong sense of responsibility for the patient.
Before London’s Air Ambulance, seriously injured patients were dying unnecessarily because of the delay in receiving prompt and appropriate medical care.
The doctor on board model for air ambulances, which we pioneered, aims for effective delivery of time critical interventions when the patient needs them rather than when the healthcare system can comfortably provide them.
London's Air Ambulance was established in 1989 in response to a report by The Royal College of Surgeons, which documented unnecessary deaths from trauma and criticised the care that seriously injured patients received in the UK.
Working with Barts Health NHS trust, we begin the delivery of a new clinical model to work towards a consultant-led service. A consultant is now present on most clinical missions alongside the duty crew including a doctor and a paramedic, ensuring that patients have the best possible care.
Our remodelled PRU is launched thanks to funding from Tower Hamlets Together. Previously an 8 hours a day, 5 days a week service, the PRU is now able to respond to 999 calls 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round. Because of these longer hours, up to 50% more patients will be seen, be able to get the care they need quicker and hospital and ambulance resources will be freed up in East London.
1st November 2016
London's Air Ambulance wins the Emergency Services category at the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards. The medical team who worked on 24-year-old cyclist Victoria won the award for its use of a pioneering balloon procedure – known as REBOA (Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta) - to prevent her from bleeding to death at the roadside. The prestigious prize also recognised the doctors at The Royal London Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, who spent two years developing the ground-breaking procedure which was then adapted to be taken out of hospital, a world first, and is helping to save lives across the capital.
Left: Dr Samy Sadek, Richard Hammond, Phillip Schofield, Victoria, Katherine Jenkins, paramedic Sam Margetts, Dr Simon Walsh, paramedics Bill Leaning and Dean Bateman
Impact Brain Apnoea paper published. The authors of the paper, Impact Brain Apnoea – a forgotten cause of cardiovascular collapse in trauma, include two London’s Air Ambulance doctors, who have rediscovered forgotten research dating back to 1705. Early death following head trauma is often thought to be due to traumatic brain injury, but a rediscovery of research dating back over 300 years has shown that this may not be quite so simple. Instead – Impact Brain Apnoea (IBA) – the cessation of breathing following a traumatic brain injury – could actually be the cause of early death in some head injured patients. Quick, simple and preventable interventions may improve outcomes for these patients and help save lives.
26th January 2016
Your second helicopter lands. Thanks to the generous contributions to the ‘Your London, Your Helicopter’ campaign from the London Freemasons, HM Treasury and the people and organisations of the capital, London’s Air Ambulance’s second helicopter is operational in London. Data suggests that this will allow us to reach 400 more patients a year by air.
First Paramedic Education and Development Lead at Barts Health NHS Trust appointed to work with London's Air Ambulance. Graham Chalk took up the role following 11 years as a Lead Paramedic & Clinical Liaison officer. This was the longest secondment from the London Ambulance Service in the history of London's Air Ambulance. During this time, Graham personally selected, trained and mentored all paramedics who served with London's Air Ambulance and has fine-tuned and developed its model of dispatch to reach its full potential.
Right: Graham Chalk (photo 2013)
29th March 2015
Extended daylight flying hours. For the first time in its history, London’s Air Ambulance flies longer hours during the summer months. From 29 March 2015, the start of BST, until 2 September, the charity is able to deliver its advanced trauma team to critically injured people in London via helicopter every day until sunset. On the longest day, the helicopter can be used until 21.21. Previously, due to aviation resources, the service had to stop flying at 18.45 each day.
5th March 2015
London Freemasons pledge £2million for the second helicopter. London Freemasons launched an appeal to its 40,000 members across 1,350 lodges in London to fundraise towards the £2 million target.
Right: Chief Pilot Neil Jeffers, Captain Dave Rolfe and Dr Marius Rehn with the London Freemasons at Freemasons' Hall
2nd February 2015
‘Your London, Your Helicopter’ campaign launches. London’s Air Ambulance calls on the people and organisations of London to come together and own the solution to London’s vital need for a second emergency medical helicopter. In its largest ever fundraising drive, the charity hoped to raise the remaining £4.4 million needed to acquire and sustain a second helicopter and extend its daylight flying hours for five years.
Life-saving dispatch app launches with EE. A new mobile app and EE’s 4G network are helping London’s Air Ambulance save lives by reducing the time it takes to dispatch the charity’s advanced trauma teams by up to two minutes. Developed by mobile app developer Mubaloo and EE, the app increases emergency dispatch efficiency by automatically providing London’s Air Ambulance with incident information via EE 4G.
Right: Dr Gareth Grier
World’s first pre-hospital REBOA (Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta) performed. Balloon surgery is used at the roadside to control severe pelvic bleeding, an injury most commonly associated with cycling incidents and falls from height. REBOA can help reduce the number of patients who quite simply bleed to death before they have the chance to get to hospital.
Left: The balloon is fed into the bottom end of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, and then inflated, temporarily cutting off blood supply to damaged blood vessels. [Photo credit: BBC]
22nd May 2014
New look Rapid Response Cars. Bringing uniformity to the London’s Air Ambulance fleet, the new ŠKODA Octavia vRS Estate vehicles sport the same red livery as the helicopter and are also emblazoned with the high visibility Battenberg strips required on emergency vehicles.
1st April 2014
Our longest serving fire officer celebrates 20 years of service. As a Senior Fire Officer, John Power heads up a team of four fire officers with a combined experience of over 50 years. It is the requirement of the Civil Aviation Authority that two fire officers must be present at the helipad at all times when the helicopter is operational. When John joined the charity on 1st April 1994, his ex-colleagues at Battersea Heliport joked that doing so on a Fool’s Day was rather telling – leaving a stable job for a charity whose future was unpredictable seemed foolish to many.
Left: John Power
19th March 2014
£1m contribution from HM Treasury to support a second air ambulance for London. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announces that London’s Air Ambulance is to be awarded £1 million to enable the charity to operate a second helicopter, helping to cover the capital.
Right: Photo credit - BBC
10th March 2014
A royal visit to London’s Air Ambulance. Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex visit London’s Air Ambulance as part of a tour of two charities supported by the Wessex Youth Trust on the Earl’s 50th Birthday. TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex awarded London’s Air Ambulance a grant for over £10,000.
Left: The royal party greeted by a 7-year-old ex-patient, Iris Filbee
UK’s first undergraduate degree in pre-hospital medicine. The Institute of Pre-Hospital Care at London’s Air Ambulance, led by Dr Gareth Grier, partners with Barts and the London School of Medicine at Queen Mary University of London to create the UK’s first Intercalated BSc degree in Pre-Hospital Medicine.
UK's first Patient Liaison Nurse for trauma patients is appointed. The role, funded by the City of London Corporation's charity, City Bridge Trust, aims to assist London’s Air Ambulance patients with their transition back to independent living, bridging the gap between the rapid on scene pre-hospital treatment the charity is renowned for and the patient’s long term recovery.
Left: Ex-patient Thomas with Frank Chege and Captain Peter Driver during his visit to the helipad
7th August 2013
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, visits the helipad. “I am very proud that London’s Air Ambulance has such a world-leading reputation for delivering the most cutting edge advanced trauma care outside of hospital - care that is saving countless lives. That has only been possible because of the generosity of Londoners to date,” he said.
Right: Boris Johnson performs open heart surgery on a training mannequin
18th February 2013
Move to RAF Northolt. The aircraft overnight base is moved from Denham to the Royal Air Force base in South Ruislip. The relocation reduced flight time to and from the helipad at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, thereby saving on fuel costs.
11th February 2013
New livery. The iconic red helicopter is emblazoned with emergency markings and the charity’s key messages to create greater awareness of London’s Air Ambulance’s work and the need for support.
13th September 2012
Sir Stirling Moss thanks London's Air Ambulance. Sir Stirling Moss suffered a terrible fall in his home in London in 2010. Within minutes, our specialist doctor and paramedic trauma team were at his side providing advanced medical care. Sir Stirling has since made a full recovery. "So few Londoners realise that this fantastic service is provided by a charity. London's Air Ambulance helped me in my time of need," he said.
Left: Sir Stirling Moss in London's Air Ambulance's Rapid Response Car (photo 2012)
Providing advanced care for the London 2012 Olympic Games. London’s Air Ambulance was designated as air ambulance for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In addition to providing major incident and serious injury cover for London during this time, our medical teams also provided medical care for the Mountain Biking, BMX and Equestrian (cross country) events.
23rd March 2012
Four-year-old ex-patient Liam opens the London Stock Exchange on behalf of the charity. London's Air Ambulance treated Liam after he had suffered life threatening head injuries.
Left: Liam with the London's Air Ambulance team at the London Stock Exchange
4th March 2012
First air ambulance in the UK to carry blood on board its aircraft and cars. The blood on board initiative, lead by Dr Anne Weaver, brought blood transfusion to the roadside. For some seriously injured patients, this innovation has been the difference between dying at the scene of injury and reaching the hospital where bleeding can be further controlled.
Right: Drawing on the experience of the British Military, London’s Air Ambulance decided to use the Golden Hour box to carry blood
14th December 2011
Move to a new helipad. The new base is at the very top of The Royal London Hospital, 17 storeys above Whitechapel Road. At 284ft, the helipad is one of the highest in Europe and is almost the same height as Big Ben. An emergency elevator enables the patient to be transferred from the rooftop to the Emergency Department on the ground floor in just two minutes.
Left: The 28m2 rooftop helipad with an 80m walkway
First pre-hospital emergency medicine professor in the UK is appointed. This is believed to be the only Professorial appointment in the UK in Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine, following the General Medical Council's decision to approve Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine as a sub-speciality of Anaesthesia and Emergency Medicine on 1st August 2011.
Right: David Lockey, London’s Air Ambulance Consultant, Trustee and Research & Development Lead, was made Honorary Professor of Trauma and Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine by the University of Bristol
1st August 2011
The General Medical Council recognises Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine as a sub-specialty of Anaesthesia and Emergency Medicine. No sub-specialty can be established without people aspiring to work within that given field. The people who drove the demand for pre-hospital care careers were trained at London’s Air Ambulance.
6th May 2011
The Coroner for the 7th July 2005 Inquests, Lady Justice Hallett, said: “On 7 July, you [London’s Air Ambulance] played a vital role in saving lives. I don’t know how many lives you saved, I can’t count them, but save lives you did, and in terrible circumstances. So thank you to you and to the rest of your team. I’ve said it before to members of London’s Air Ambulance and I say it again. From everything I’ve heard, London’s Air Ambulance is an excellent service.”
Right: Lady Justice Hallett, Coroner for the 7th July 2005 Inquests
4th January 2010
24/7 operations. London's Air Ambulance finally secures the funding to serve London around the clock, using Rapid Response Cars throughout the night when it is too dangerous to land in London. This would not have been possible without the London Ambulance Service's decision to fund the wages of all paramedics. Previously, the charity could only operate until 1am on weekdays.
Left: A doctor and paramedic from London's Air Ambulance drive to the patient's side on blue lights at night
The Pre-Hospital Care Programme is established in collaboration with Barts, the London School of Medicine and the London Ambulance Service. The first of its kind in the UK, it offers a chance for selected students to become part of a structured programme, allowing them to gain early clinical exposure to the pre-hospital environment.
London's Air Ambulance Lottery is launched. London's Air Ambulance supporters can now contribute £1 a week and be in with a chance of winning £1,000 at the same time as keeping the charity operational by providing regular income. Today, the scheme has more than 45,000 players and has raised over £2.5 million.
Left: Lucky lottery winners Lynda Stevens and her husband Ron receive their prize at the helipad
First London Trauma Conference. London becomes home to one of the most prestigious trauma education and research events in the world, led by Dr Gareth Davies and Prof David Lockey.
Emeritus scheme launches. The 'emeritus' group of doctors and paramedics is a unique group of clinicians who have completed a secondment with London's Air Ambulance and who volunteer to continue to deliver clinical care to patients during operational shifts. The group bring expertise and experience that is unique not only in providing care for patients but in facilitating continuity in training, a 'corporate memory', and a critical appraisal of innovation. Many of the doctors and paramedics have worked for London's Air Ambulance for over ten years. The emeritus team wear the same orange uniform as all of our current staff and can often be seen at our fundraising and charity events.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, visits London's Air Ambulance in the aftermath of the 7th July 2005 bombings.
Right: Ken Livingstone during his visit with Dr Gareth Davies, Medical Director at London's Air Ambulance
A royal visit in recognition of London's Air Ambulance's contribution during the Capital's emergency medical response to the 7th July 2005 bombings takes place shortly after the incident.
Left: HM the Queen at London's Air Ambulance
21st July 2005
In the aftermath of the 7th July 2005 bombings, the media reflect on the response of London’s emergency services.
Right: Front pages of the London Evening Standard and the Guardian on 21st July 2005
7th July 2005
On 7th July 2005, London’s Air Ambulance dispatches 18 medical teams to the sites of the London bombings, helping to triage and treat over 700 patients. 52 people were killed in this series of coordinated terrorist attacks in central London, which targeted civilians using the public transport system during the morning rush hour.
Left: Double-decker bus in Tavistock Square ripped apart in a suicide bombing
Building an international reputation. As the system matured, London's Air Ambulance gained recognition abroad for its governance, patient care standards and life-saving innovation.
Right: Japanese translation of The Study of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services in London
10th May 2002
Potters Bar Train Crash. Seven people die and 70 are injured when a train is derailed in Hertfordshire. London’s Air Ambulance delivered advanced trauma teams to the scene of the incident and helped coordinate the emergency medical response, working alongside the London Ambulance Service.
Left: Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk
Physician Response Unit (PRU) launches. Operated by London's Air Ambulance, the PRU responds to medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrests. It operates in the area around The Royal London Hospital, including the City and East London. The PRU delivers a doctor and paramedic team that can provide advanced medical care in the community, reducing pressure on the London Ambulance Service and the Emergency Department.
Right: Team with the first PRU car
First Driver Standards Manager appointed. Paul Smith is made responsible for managing our fleet of Rapid Response Cars and training our paramedics to drive on blue lights through night-time London quickly and, above all, safely. Paul has been with London's Air Ambulance for over 20 years, having originally joined as a fire fighter.
Left: A Rapid Response Car as you might see it in the streets of London today
London’s Air Ambulance and Virgin call for support from the public and, in particular, the business community of London in a video. “I go back to the benefit to a commercial company of spending some of its profits on a very worthwhile and very public operation…For companies, this is tax deductible stuff,” says Andrew Cameron, a Trustee who later became CEO of London’s Air Ambulance.
5th October 1999
Paddington Train Crash. 31 people die and more than 220 people are injured when two trains collide almost head-on. London’s Air Ambulance delivered four advanced trauma teams to the site and helped coordinate the emergency medical response, alongside the London Ambulance Service. On that day, the charity’s - at the time only - helicopter was offline for mechanical repair and London’s Air Ambulance was forced to respond by car.
Left: London Evening Standard reports on the day: “Survivors at one point had to push the dead body of one victim out of a window to escape.”
First Rapid Response Car and expansion into night-time operations. London’s Air Ambulance starts delivering the same medical team and equipment to critically injured people after dusk by road. Initially limited to four nights a week, the night-time operations gradually expanded until the charity started operating 24/7 in 2010.
Right: The London's Air Ambulance team boarding a Rapid Response Car
First fundraising efforts in the community. At an improvised stall carried around by Christine Margetts, Medical Secretary to Dr Gareth Davies, you could buy umbrellas and baseball caps, with all proceeds going to London’s Air Ambulance. Following on the heritage of Pat Swaby, this was the birth of the charity as we know it today. Christine has continued to work for the charity for the next 20 years.
Left: Christine Margetts (photo 2013)
New helicopter. The Dauphin is replaced by MD902 Explorer, the very same aircraft the charity flies today. This model was chosen for its safety features, which include no tail rotor - important in an urban environment. It was specially adapted to allow patients to be treated to the standard of an intensive care unit at the roadside and in flight.
Right: MD902 Explorer in Virgin livery
Virgin purchases the helicopter from the Daily Express and goes on to cover the operational costs as well.
Left: London's Air Ambulance helicopter livery reflects Virgin's sponsorship of the charity
Virgin gets on board. “I realised it was time to pay back,” says Richard Branson, revealing in a press release issued by Virgin that he had been rescued by emergency helicopters five times during his time abroad. London’s Air Ambulance now has the backing of a powerful PR mogul as well as vital financial support from Virgin Group.
Right: Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group of Companies in 1990s. Photo credit: virgin.com
Many people, especially patients' families and friends, feel strongly that something must be done to save the service.
Left: Islington Gazette: 50-year-old Linda Dingle, whose friend was helped by London’s Air Ambulance, talks about her ambition to raise £1 million: “I will stand in Chapel Market and get a petition together.”
The media debate over proposed funding cuts, which would have shut down London’s Air Ambulance, stirs emotions. The public, once again, voice their concerns.
Right: A reader’s response in the East London Advertiser: “According to reports, the amount of traffic is set to increase. I would say to the health authorities...anyone of us, including yourselves, could find ourselves in dire need of heli-ambulance."
London’s Air Ambulance comes under attack. Critics say money would be better spent elsewhere.
Left: Time Out and the London Evening Standard report on the heated debate surrounding the funding of London’s Air Ambulance
Dr Gareth Davies becomes Medical Director of London's Air Ambulance, a post he still holds to this day. In the same year, Prof Tim Coats becomes a consultant for the service. Tim is the first senior lecturer in A&E and pre-hospital care in the UK. Gareth is about to lead the service through some of the most turbulent and challenging times in its history.
Right: Dr Gareth Davies (photo 2015) and Prof Tim Coats
Patients and the public come to the rescue. A media battle ensues after medical professionals voice criticism in the national media, with some of the patients saved by London’s Air Ambulance approaching journalists to tell their stories.
Left: 30-year-old Paul Montgomery, who had been treated by London’s Air Ambulance after his road traffic collision, collects a 650-name petition against cuts and calls the plans to scrap the service “criminal”
Sceptics of the service continue to challenge the model of pre-hospital care pioneered by London's Air Ambulance. The result is a further review by Deloitte. The review considers several alternative options, including confining helicopter operations to outer London or replacing it completely with several specialist road ambulances. The report concludes that modifications are “desirable and affordable” [page 62]. The threat of London being left without an emergency medical helicopter becomes ever more real, if not imminent.
Right: Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group on behalf of the London Health Authorities: Evaluating the Options to Enhance or Replace the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service in London
Although trauma networks and trauma systems didn't exist yet, The Royal London Hospital, home to London's Air Ambulance, was now functioning as a major trauma centre. Today, the hospital is the UK's leading major trauma centre.
A report commissioned by the Department of Health, colloquially known as the Sheffield Report, is published. Designed to evaluate the efficiency of London’s Air Ambulance and its model of pre-hospital care, the report's conclusions are likely to influence funding decisions and ultimately decide the fate of helicopter emergency medical systems and trauma systems at large. The design of the study meant that, ultimately, it was unable to answer the questions it asked. The report concluded that there was no reliable statistical evidence of improved survival or of improved outcomes in survivors. It estimated that approximately one patient with major trauma survived each month thanks to the service.
Right: “The Cost and Effectiveness of the London Helicopter Emergency Service” aka the Sheffield Report
Another change to the livery. The helicopter is painted yellow.
Left: London's Air Ambulance in yellow Daily Express livery near Tower Bridge
The documentary Flying Doctors, which was part of the 999 series on the BBC, brings the concept of pre-hospital care to homes across the UK.
Right: Dr Gareth Davies in Flying Doctors
24th December 1993
On Christmas Eve, London’s Air Ambulance performs the world’s first successful open heart surgery at the roadside. This pioneering procedure challenged the guidelines on resuscitation as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The non-conventional approach and personal courage of individual doctors pushed the boundaries of pre-hospital care and continues to save lives today. London’s Air Ambulance has the highest survival rate in the world for this procedure that doctors were once held against the wall for performing.
Left: The first successful open heart surgery at the roadside is performed in front of the Indian restaurant Kismet, which translates as 'destiny' or 'fortune'
24th April 1993
Bishopsgate Bombing. One person is killed and 44 injured when the IRA detonate a truck bomb in the City of London. That day, London’s Air Ambulance was being followed by a filming crew from the ITV documentary series Blues and Twos and the charity’s response was captured on camera.
The helicopter, previously known as the White Dauphin, changes livery.
Left: The helicopter in Daily Express livery.
Critical voices are quoted across the media, from The Times to The Guardian, talking of "inappropriate helicopter use."
Right: The Guardian: A high profile case of a man mauled by a lion at London Zoo is used as a platform to challenge London’s Air Ambulance.
In the run up to the Sheffield report [see July 1994], critics rally against London’s Air Ambulance and the very concept of pre-hospital care. Medical professionals opposing the use of emergency medical helicopters and on-scene advanced trauma care take to the media to voice their opinion.
Left: The Times: A high profile case of a man mauled by a lion at London Zoo is used as a platform to challenge London’s Air Ambulance.
First Lead Paramedic and Clinical Liaison Officer appointed. Charlie Balderstone takes up the role, acting as the main point of contact between London's Air Ambulance and the London Ambulance Service.
Right: Charlie Balderston
Jill Williams is working as the NHS manager responsible for A&E and HEMS [as London's Air Ambulance was known then]. Jill was one of the defining personalities of London's Air Ambulance. She went on to become the first nurse Clinical Director at The Royal London Hospital and later became a Trustee of London's Air Ambulance.
Left: Jill Williams
8th January 1991
Cannon Street Station Train Crash. London’s Air Ambulance lands on the tracks just yards behind the mangled train, bringing five medical teams to the site. The team helped to coordinate the emergency medical response to the incident, working alongside the London Ambulance Service.
Right: The Daily Express report on the “Disaster at Cannon Street” the following day
2nd November 1990
London’s Air Ambulance was branded a “disaster for the local people” in a London newspaper. Labour Councillor John Biggs was quoted to have said: “The helicopter takes off and lands with a deafening noise drowning conversation and disturbing the peace of people in the area.”
Left: An article in the East London Advertiser quoting John Biggs
The helicopter, landing in the streets of London to deliver the hospital to the patient or the patient to a nearby hospital, inevitably attracted attention.
Right: The Times on Saturday. The caption reads: “Street incredibility: Bemused residents stare at the helicopter ambulance that landed with a patient in Fulham Palace Road outside Charing Cross Hospital, London, yesterday.”
London’s Air Ambulance initially serves the whole of South East England.
Left: Airlifting a man with flail chest at M20, Chelsey
The first doctor and paramedic on board. The first paramedics to do the job were Chris Mayer and Tony Crann, who started as part of a group of ten selected by the London Ambulance Service from all over London. The first senior clinician to accompany a paramedic on board was Dr Mark Dalton, known in the hospital corridors as Bald Eagle One.
Right: Dr Mark Dalton and Tony Crann
Our first mission. The helicopter flies organs for a transplant from Scotland to London. Since then, the purpose of the service has changed drastically; the charity now delivers an advanced trauma team to the roadside. Yet it all started with this simple retrieval mission.
Right: The transplant team was picked up at the Royal Free Hospital and flown to Dundee
London Ambulance Service gets on board. To this day, the London Ambulance Service provides paid paramedics who work with London's Air Ambulance. An advanced trauma paramedic operates from the LAS Emergency Operating Centre and is responsible for dispatching London’s Air Ambulance to the most critically injured people in London, 24 hours a day.
“What resulted has to be considered a first class example of cooperation between public and private sectors,” commented Andrew Cameron, Managing Director at Express Newspapers who later became Chief Executive at London's Air Ambulance, on establishment of the charity.
Right: Andrew Cameron
9th January 1989
London’s Air Ambulance charity is set up as a joint initiative between:
• Daily Express - Andrew Cameron and Lord Stevens
• The Royal London Hospital - Richard Earlam and Alastair Wilson
• NHS - Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher.
Left: The first logo of London's Air Ambulance, then called HEMS [Helicopter Emergency Medical Service]
All staff at The Royal London Hospital receive a Christmas message: “Le Dauphin est arrive. The helicopter has arrived from Aerospatiale’s factory in Marseilles. All the instruction signs are in French just like the Channel Tunnel!”
Right: The first helicopter, a French built Aerospatiale SA 365N known as the white Dauphin, is flown into Trinity Square Gardens
“Wanted: Top pilots for mercy helicopter” stated an advertisement in the Daily Express. Alan Rock, the first Chief Pilot of London's Air Ambulance, went on to negotiate and define the rules and regulations for emergency landings in London in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Authority. Today, London's Air Ambulance has a team of five pilots, led by Chief Pilot Neil Jeffers.
Left: Alan Rock
The Royal College of Surgeons of England issues a report documenting cases of patients dying unnecessarily because of the delay in appropriate medical care.
Right: Report on the Management of Patients with Major Injuries; November 1988.
Conversations with the Conservative Government, led by Margaret Thatcher who facilitated the project, are in full flow. “As you know, wheels within the NHS grind slowly but this symbiosis of private and public sponsorship has facilitated a project that would otherwise have taken years...The unnecessary death rate is in the region of 33 percent – a single helicopter can mean as many as 200 lives saved each year.”
Left: Margaret Thatcher with Andrew Cameron (go to 1989 for more info). Quote: Letter from A. Wilson to M. Thatcher; August 1988.
London’s Air Ambulance gains a momentum that cannot be stopped. Express Newspapers agree to provide a helicopter, pilots, operational staff and all running costs for 4 years – approximately £4 million.
Right: Letter from Lord Stevens of Ludgate, Chairman of United Newspapers plc., published in Trauma Care by R. Earlam; 1997.
A retrospective study reviews 1000 consecutive deaths from injury in England and Wales to identify deaths in hospital that could have been prevented.
Left: Retrospective study of 1000 deaths from injury in England and Wales by I. D. Anderson, F. T. Dombai, M. Woodford, M. Irving, British Medical Journal, Vol 296, 1988.
"It might open people´s eyes to the fact that there is currently carnage going on on a daily basis on the M25, which is not being serviced properly and that unless people use helicopters which are appropriately medically staffed and equipped, that carnage is likely to get much worse... In particular, there is nobody in this country properly trained, it strikes me, in major disaster techniques.”
Right: Scene of road traffic collision. Quote: Letter from A. Wilson to G. Greenwill; August 1987.
As with many great innovations, London’s Air Ambulance comes to life with a casual conversation. The basis of the first and one of the most fundamental charity partnerships in the history of trauma care was laid on the tennis court where the wives of Richard Earlam, Consultant Surgeon at The Royal London Hospital, and Lord Stevens of Ludgate, Chairman of United Newspapers plc., discussed trauma care in Germany. “Without our friendship…this project quite literally might never have got off the ground,” reflected Lord Ludgate
Left: Photo of Richard Earlam and Lord Stevens of Ludgate celebrating success three years later
London’s Air Ambulance is just a vision and aspiration of clinicians at The Royal London Hospital, who clearly articulate the need for a helicopter emergency medical service: “A report in 1966 by the National Academy of Science called accidental injury “the neglected disease of modern society…”
Right: The Royal London Hospital. Quote: A Hospital Board Helicopter Retrieval and Transport System: A team Approach; April 1986.
“At the moment, people are dying because we are unable to provide sufficient expertise at the accident site. This mortality is exaggerated when the current slow road transport of victims, often without adequate ongoing resuscitation, is added.”
Left: Alastair Wilson. Quote: Letter from A. Wilson to C.B.J Sussman, Assistant Commissioner of Police, New Scotland Yard; January 1986.
Road traffic collision statistics together with constantly increasing traffic in London illustrate the urgent need for a helicopter emergency medical service.
Right: M25 Accident rates, 1985 map