8:22pm Thursday 15th May 2008
By An Editor's View
This year we intended to run a campaign in the paper to raise money for Wiltshire's air ambulance. Instead, and if you'd told me this a couple of years ago I'd have said you were madder than John
McCrirrick, we are running a campaign to save it.
The helicopter is one of the great local authority successes of Wiltshire, a perfect compromise between the police, the public and the ambulance service.
The police pay for the greater majority of the helicopter's running costs and the rest is funded by public fundraising through the air ambulance's own charity. Both the police observers and the paramedics do a fantastic job that contributes immeasurably to the safety of people in the county
But, like almost anything that comes into contact with 21st century NHS bureaucracy, this happy arrangement has all gone to pot.
The Great Western Ambulance Service trust has decided it no longer wants to work with the police and so has curtailed its partnership to jointly lease the helicopter. The agreement will run for only another year while GWAS explored "all of its options".
This will have two effects. Firstly the air ambulance service will most likely be moved out of the county but won't be allowed to fly at night because the Civil Aviation Authority permission is only granted to the police.
And secondly the police will be without a helicopter unless they find some serious extra cash.
You would have thought that the trustess of the air ambulance charity would have something to say about this. After all they are sitting on around £1 million of public funds raised by the people of Wiltshire for an air ambulance in Wiltshire.
But, and this is the part I can't quite get my head around, the sole trustees of that fund are officials from GWAS.
This is a bit like having a PoW camp escape committee made up of stormtroopers and camp commandants... not that I am saying anyone in the GWAS is or ever has been a Nazi.
In short there is no independent voice standing up on behalf of the psneioners, schoolchildren and hard-working fundraisers who contributed their cash in the expectation that it might help them should they ever be hurt in the middle of nowhere.
The Charity Commission is preparing a report on the question of whether this is an acceptable state of affairs but what sanction, if any, it has over GWAS is anyone's guess.
All I know is that the people of Wiltshire have about a year to make GWAS fully aware that we want and need an air ambulance service for Wiltshire, based in Wiltshire.
We have started a petition and I would urge anyone who feels strongly about preserving this county's fast-disappearing medical resources to sign it or download their own petition form and poster. You can do both here.
Please help us send a clear message to the men who make the decisions.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group