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Air Ambulance Foundation reveals 40 per cent increase in call outs to riding accidents

19 September 2003 – The latest statistics released by the Air Ambulance Foundation (AAF) reveal a significant increase in the number of emergency call-outs requiring assistance from air ambulances. Sporting incidents, in particular horse riding, show the greatest increase overall with call outs to horse-related injuries up by 40 per cent on last year; this represents an additional cost to air ambulances of £120,000 in just six months alone.

The report, which contains information collated from the 15 regional air ambulance services across the UK, shows an overall increase of 16 per cent over the same period in 2002 (January to June). In human terms, this means that an additional 1,000 people – many suffering life-threatening conditions – benefited from the fast and flexible response which has become the trademark of the air ambulance service.

With each air ambulance mission costing £1,000, this has meant that air ambulances have had to find an additional £1 million pounds in the last six months.

Road traffic accidents (RTA’s) represent the greatest number of call-outs which, at 46 per cent of the total, have increased by 16 per cent.

Jon Scourse, Executive Director of the Air Ambulance Foundation, believes that the increase in the number of call outs to air ambulances reflects the growing awareness by the emergency services of the critical qualities that air ambulances bring to the field of trauma care.

“Increased traffic congestion makes rapid access to hospital by road far more difficult and a helicopter can reach most hospitals in minutes. After a major accident, it is important that patients with serious trauma injuries are treated as soon as possible and treatment within The Golden Hour – the one hour after the accident - can mean the difference between life and death. At least 7,000 patients each year reach hospital mostly within 15 minutes for critical care,” explained Scourse.

The statistics indicate an obvious trend towards the greater usage of air ambulances, not just for road traffic accidents, but for medical emergencies, collapses and accidents in isolated, rural areas such as those used by horse riders.
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Accident and Emergency specialists have reported evidence of improved rates of recovery due to the swift response from air ambulances, and for spinally injured patients the smoothness of transportation is vital.

Felicity Reed was just 15 years old when she was involved in a jumping accident in Devon. As she went over her horse’s head it kicked her in the lower back and on landing Felicity had lost all feeling in her fingers and feet.

Her friend called the emergency services whose paramedics, after assessing Felicity, feared that the numbness may be the effect of spinal injury. The decision was quickly made that the fastest and most effective method of getting Felicity to hospital was by air ambulance. It took just three minutes to air-lift Felicity to the nearest hospital for treatment.

“These latest figures prove that the air ambulance is an essential part of emergency medical response across the UK,” said Scourse. “The Air Ambulance Foundation needs to raise substantial funds to sustain the existing services and expand into three new regions not currently covered by a dedicated air ambulance. Add to this the need to upgrade ten helicopters to meet new regulations – at a cost of £500,000 each, per year – and it becomes a real possibility that some air ambulance services will be at risk.

“Independent research has shown that 60 per cent of the British public don’t realise that most of the 15 regional charities receive little government funding and are entirely dependent on donations from the public. This public perception is one we seriously need to change if we are to raise the income needed to keep these life saving helicopters in the air.”

The Air Ambulance Foundation is the national fundraising body for the UK’s 15 regional air ambulances. If readers would like to make a donation to the Air Ambulance Foundation or to organise a fundraising event, please call 01256 492852 or visit


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