On 19th May 1999, the North West Air Ambulance Charity (NWAA) took its maiden flight from Blackpool Airport. Since then, the charity has completed over 22,000 missions, making a difference to thousands of lives across the region.
In 21 years, the service has grown from one helicopter to three, launched four rapid response vehicles, and opened a second airbase in Barton. All along it has been supported by the generosity of donors, fundraisers, and volunteers across the North West.
On call 365 days a year, the NWAA crew work tirelessly to bring the hospital to the patient. The service is entirely charity-run, depending on public and corporate support to complete its lifesaving missions, as it does not receive government funding.
David Higgs, 59, Blackpool, is one patient who credits NWAA with saving his life. In September 2019, he was involved in a horrific motorbike collision, leaving him with 14 shattered bones. NWAA paramedics attended the scene, providing vital pre-hospital care which gave David the best possible chance of surviving before receiving further treatment at Royal Preston Hospital.
“I wouldn’t be here without the air ambulance, it’s as simple as that. I had a broken pelvis, jaw, hip, skull, arm, a dislocated shoulder – I was in a really bad way. If the paramedics at the air ambulance hadn’t treated me when they did, I’m not sure how I would have ended up.
“Before my accident, I took it for granted that the air ambulance was government-funded and so I was absolutely astounded to learn it’s a charity. It’s such an important organisation, they are lifesavers after all. I really encourage everyone to dig deep and support any way they can.”
One young supporter wishing the charity a happy birthday is 9-year-old Elizabeth, Warrington, who has single-handedly raised over £400 by taking part in a 21-hour sponsored silence. Elizabeth was inspired to fundraise after seeing the air ambulance’s paramedics on BBC One’s Ambulance: “It was hard not to talk for so long, but it was worth it to raise money for the air ambulance charity. I wanted to say thank you for its work because its paramedics are my heroes! I want to be a paramedic when I grow up now, and help people just like they do.”
Heather Arrowsmith, North West Air Ambulance Charity CEO, celebrated Elizabeth and all those who have made 21 years of service possible: “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported our charity over the years. In this time our charity has made a truly lifesaving difference to our community, thanks to the hard work of our crew, our team at HQ and volunteers, and the incredible generosity of our fundraisers and donors. Supporters like little Elizabeth make all the difference to our work. It takes over £9.5 million a year to remain operational, and we simply wouldn’t be here without this support.
“Our charity’s mission is to improve outcomes for patients all across the North West, whether someone needs a blood transfusion by the side of the M6, has gotten into difficulties up in the Lakes or has suffered a heart attack at home. By swiftly bringing the hospital directly to the patient, our crew can make the difference between life and death. Patients like David really drive this home – and we’re so grateful to all those who have allowed us to carry out this work since 1999.”