Since the introduction of the first air ambulance for emergency care in 1987, air ambulances across England and Wales have steadily developed into highly regarded, consistent, critical pre-hospital care services. These services, known as Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS), have grown consistently, not only in the number of aircraft but also in the level of advanced critical pre-hospital care being delivered. All of these services are mainly delivered by 20 charities across the UK, of which 18 are within England and Wales.
Each charity works tirelessly to raise funds for the network of aircraft and clinical teams. In 2011, that network of charities raised £76.6 million across the UK, primarily through the generosity of the general public. We must acknowledge the significant network of volunteers, committed staff and trustees whose passionate belief in their role drives them to raise these funds so successfully.
At the heart of the air ambulance charities and air ambulance services is an aspiration for clinical and operational excellence, consistency of clinical practice and sound underpinning governance. All elements of this aspiration, which is focused solely on further improving patient care, are now enshrined in the Association of Air Ambulances' Vision Statement: 'The AAA's vision is to improve patient outcomes through the provision of outstanding services to its members'.
The Association now provides the bridge between air ambulance charities, ambulance services and its supply chain, thus aiding improved sharing of clinical best practice, coordinated fundraising and efficiency improvements. This process of continual improvement through collaboration is key to the on-going success of air ambulances.
The air ambulance services will continue to evolve through the advancement of both clinical and aviation practice. Recent examples include the development of Night HEMS; greater use of doctor/paramedic critical care teams and the development of specialist air ambulance services. In acknowledging these important advances, we must recognise that they would be impossible were it not for the incredible skill and professionalism of both the clinicians and aviators involved.
This Framework, which owes a great deal to its predecessor, aims to provide an overview through which Air Ambulance Services and the NHS Ambulance Trusts / Foundations can further develop and deliver a high-performing, consistent, patient-focused critical care service. The Framework does not advocate a specific model, but instead recognises the need for services tailored to meet the demands of the varying local care environments, thus ensuring that the needs of patients remain the priority.
I wish to record my thanks to all those colleagues listed in Appendix E for their hard work and contribution to the development and production of this Framework document, which is designed with the express purpose of improving patient outcomes.
Chairman of the Association of Air Ambulances 2013 - 2016
Chief Executive of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance