Flying high to hit target
10:00am Saturday 13th October 2012 in News
Trustees of Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust are confident £2 million can be raised every year to keep its helicopter airborne.
The trust, which was formed a year ago, pays 35 per cent towards the shared Wiltshire Police helicopter/air ambulance, amounting to £700,000 a year.
But in 2015 it is likely to have its own helicopter as police forces are being forced to share helicopters by the Government to save money.
This will mean the charity has to raise £2m a year.
Speaking at the charity’s first annual general meeting on Wednesday last week at Devizes Town Hall, chairman Richard Youens said the trustees were not daunted by this prospect.
“We believe the charity is extremely popular in Wiltshire and we have every confidence we will get the support we need to continue flying beyond 2015,” said Mr Youens, who lives in Rushall.
The AGM, attended by more than 60 people, was told that since the charity was formed last October it had raised £1.3m, an increase on its predecessor the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal.
Trustee Sanjeen Payne-Kumar said the charity had been strict on costs and next year had a target to raise £1.6m.
Of all the 18 air ambulance charities in England and Wales the amount of money raised in Wiltshire made the county the fourth most generous, he said. The new charity was formed after Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) relinquished its sole trusteeship of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal after many years of lobbying by campaigners who wanted the charity to be independent of the NHS.
David Philpott, who oversaw the formation of the charity and is now its chief executive, praised the media for its efforts in supporting the campaign, including the Gazette and Herald.
He said: “We owe an enormous debt to the press. We would not be here today without that traditional, honest and fair reporting.”
The air ambulance has been a joint helicopter with Wiltshire Police for 22 years but the current contract ends in December 2014.
Wiltshire is the only air ambulance that can fly at night due to the special equipment on board the police helicopter and because it flies under different rules to dedicated air ambulances.
The trustees were asked if, when the air ambulance splits from the police helicopter, it could able to fly at night.
Trustee Chris Lear said: “We don’t know the full answer to that. The Civil Aviation Authority hasn’t made its mind up about the regulations. There are other air ambulances that would like to fly at night.”
During the AGM a cheque for £1,750 was presented to the charity by Royal Wootton Bassett Rotary Club members.