At a Conservative Party Conference ‘Fringe Meeting’ held in the Hyatt Regency, Birmingham on 9th October the meeting organisers "The Air Ambulance Service" [TAAS] put forward what some viewed as some disturbing proposals. Andy Williamson (the Chief Executive of TAAS) was advocating that all the separate Air Ambulance Charities in the United Kingdom merge together as "The Air Ambulance Service" and give up their individual county identities.
This line of thinking goes against the majority opinion of the many separate charity groups who rely `upon the fundraising being ‘local’ in nature to engender a feeling among the fundraisers and givers that they are looking after ‘their’ own helicopter rather than some large corporate monolith.
Andy Williamson would appear to have an ego the size of a house. He has no mandate to determine the best way forward for a sector, but clearly feels that as he thinks he is right, he is. What a tosser, what he is proposing is so blatantly wrong, but he bangs on about it anyway. It's a shame that the AAA seems toothless in delivering any sort of leadership on this issue.
The TAAS's well documented take-over of the Children's Air Ambulance was clearly motivated by the desire to give themselves an excuse to fundraise nationally. They have 'form' in setting their agenda.
There should be a law against sharks like these guys. There is a lot of good out there in the air ambulance world, but chancers like Mr. Williamson threaten to undermine all that work to develop local identities, for his own selfish ends. The danger of course is that any bickering among charities risks negative PR, which threatens to undermine the current model.
Goodness we might even have the same medical crew, the same medical equipment and a standardised deployment policy. Some idiot might even then me able to audit the system to see if it is value for money. That could be a problem
It might even catch on in the rest of medicine. We could call it the National Health System and ensure everyone benefits.
I thought that the latest "plan" for the NHS from the politicians was to go back to the random postcode lottery approach to healthcare, and ignore what NICE or anyone else who knows anything are saying.
But Helinut the doctors will still be annually appraised to a national standard, regulated by the GMC, and the standards believed appropriate will have to be met by all as otherwise the courts will intervene if someone complains.
And a parallel system goes for nurses, physio etc etc
In e 1960s kidney transplantation was run along the same lines as HEMS with everyone doing their own thing and money raised from charities. The doctors realised it was poor and pressure was put on the NHS to fund a proper service.
I am sincerely grateful to all those who raise money but if you needed a heart operation you would not be best pleased for me to tell you I was waiting for the charity to do a tombola and I didn't use an anaesthetist because my unit used porters.
You only have to realise there is effectively no real controlled medical audit of HEMS after 25 years save a couple of rather negative studies.
The fault lies as much with my fellow doctors who seem more concerned they might have their flights or power base restricted rather than pushing for NHS funding and a proper helicopter healthcare system integrated into trauma care
Location: Italy & Cornwall in equal measure - usually
Why AA units work.
I should declare my hand and say from the beginning that as the guy that designed and set up the first AA unit in 1987 the clinical aspects of our role were only 50% of our 'raison d'etre'.
The other 50% was a logistical issue - speed and distance = time.
The delivery of stabilising care was the driver when deciding crew composition. For us that was a game changer for at that time we only had 8 'extended trained ATs' for the whole county so we could, when it mattered put a 'paramedic' into the equation. At a stroke we improved the QUALITY of clinical care.
The other big change was in the performance of the Ambulance Service. Some parameters were measurable and recorded (response times etc) but other parameters were measurable but NOT recorded - the number of occasions that the AA was effectively the ONLY unit available to cover the whole of our area.
The use of a philosophy that limits the role of the AA are in my opinion counter productive. Yes you do hand the nay-sayers ammunition when you pick up an sprained ankle but the context needs to be understood. Picking up that patient on an isolated cliff-top meant that the job was done and dusted within the hour. It would otherwise have removed a vehicle and crew from the available resources for 4 hours. Maybe the vehicle would have been unavailable to deal with the coronary in the town centre where the AA would have had problems attending.
What I am saying is that a holistic approach is necessary when gathering and analysing data about AA activity. We all know that they are a benefit but don't forget to look carefully at WHERE and WHEN they are a benefit.
If you ask me if the nation would benefit from 'joined-up' AA system then the answer is obviously yes. The devil is in the detail. What model is appropriate for our country and how do we get from where we are now to where we need to be?
Last edited by Geoffersincornwall; 14th Oct 2012 at 06:12.
Reason: added last para
The new two-storey office building will house the Air Operations Unit for Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon Air Ambulance Trust, both of which currently operate from Police Headquarters at Middlemoor.
Standardised aircraft and equipment, standardised training, central spare parts inventory, streamlined management.
The individual Air Ambulances can still keep their local identities for donations and fund raising.
The small regional air ambulances cannot hope to achieve any real efficiency. By merging in The Air Ambulance Service, commercial savings can be made (greater purchasing power) and the public will be more certain that they are getting value for money.
Location: Italy & Cornwall in equal measure - usually
SAV - The Post Script
I cringe with embarrassment. Bravery didn't come into it. All that was necessary was an enquiring mind, a good dose of bloody-midedness and a dash of luck. Add this to an amazingly positive reception at Stephen Bond's door and you have the idea.
Last edited by Geoffersincornwall; 14th Oct 2012 at 16:12.
I'm worried by this - the Police Aviation News / Heli hub article that Savoia references shines a bright spotlight on the shameless intentions of Andy Williamson, and the Warwickshire & Northants operation AKA TAAS.
It seems that by design or otherwise they are positioning themselves for a dominant role within the Air Ambulance world.
The Childrens Air Ambulance (TCAA) situation was laughable, but by taking the reins of that organisation, it seems that The Air Ambulance Service) TAAS are mistakenly being received by those not in the know as the driving force, and font of all knowledge in the world of Air Ambulances.
This is just wrong in every respect, the concept of a National Air Ambulance body, may or may not have merit, but surely we cannot let someone that clearly has a sizeable ego to feed put on a smart suit and con the rest of the world into believing that they know best.
Sotiras: You will have to excuse my limited powers of perception with regard to your comment in that I am not entirely sure what you are implying (if anything).
If you believe that I am advocating a national air ambulance service .. I have made no such declaration on the matter. Like anything, it would require an in depth knowledge of the subject matter to be able to many a meaningful contribution and such knowledge I simply do not possess.
In the quoted section of the HeliHub article in post #1 it says at the beginning of the second paragrpah: "This line of thinking goes against the majority opinion of the many separate charity groups .." and which response I would quickly identify with in the absence of more substantive information regarding this proposal.
Regarding the character involved in this proposal, while I do not know him .. I do know of him and yes .. I very much do wish to shine a light on the matter .. that the intentions behind this proposal may be revealed with the hopeful outcome of encouraging sound responses - responses which clearly benefit patients and operators alike.
I have no real views on the merits of a national air ambulance service at present (for the reason provided), I do however share great sympathy with Homonculus' view that air ambulance operations should be government funded.
Savoia - I'm not implying anything, simply stating my concerns with the direction this is all taking.
The debate may well need to be had, and I'm sure it will be, but the last thing it needs is to be driven and steered by someone, or some organisation whose motives are being reported negatively, and at face value at least, appear to be questionable.
Having re-read your post - I'd suggest we probably share the same viewpoint and concerns.
Last edited by sotiras; 14th Oct 2012 at 20:45.
Reason: Added the final sentence
For completeness TAAS hosted two seperate meetings at the Coservative Party Conference, the first was formal and the second more social. The original post on Helihub related to feedback from meeting2. Meeting 1 was, I now understand, blessed with a similar format and outcome.
Monday 8 October 19.30 The Air Ambulance Service Hyatt Regency : Dolce Public Service Reform: Getting it off the ground Speakers : Matthew Parris, Columnist - The Times (Chair); Bernard Jenkin MP, Chairman - Public Administration Select Committee; Andy Williamson, Chief Executive - The Air Ambulance Service Refreshments available
Tuesday 9 October 21.30 The Air Ambulance Service Hyatt Regency : Soprano Public Service Reform: Getting it off the Ground Speakers : Nigel Evans MP, Deputy Speaker - House of Commons; Andy Williamson, Chief Executive - The Air Ambulance Service Refreshments available