Air ambulance getting off the ground?

The saga of the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance continues. The BBC has an article on the story suggesting that 90% of the £700,000 raised has gone on salaries and administration. This was initially denied but later confirmed by the charity which also has an explanation of its funding on its web site.

Mr. Gwyn Beattie MB BCh Bao MRCS, Clinical Director at Ireland Air Ambulance (IAA) said:

“IAA has always been completely transparent about all aspects of its operations and publishes its audited financial results on its website. As the only region in the UK without Air Ambulance cover we continue to find great support for our plans to provide a service for the region. Like any charity or organisation, we anticipated that start-up costs in the first trading years would be high. In our first year, 90% of income was spent on operational costs such as salaries, premises, travel expenses, professional fees. In the last three months this figure has been reduced to 68% and we expect it to fall much further still in coming years.”
The Health minister Michael McGimpsey said:
“There have been attempts to discover a protocol or a way forward but to date the proposers for the ambulance have not been able to satisfy the health service as to how this ambulance would operate,”
“Frankly, I am bemused that this is progressing the way it is progressing. We are collecting money for an ambulance helicopter that, as far as I am aware, there has been no order placed for, there has been no understanding created for, and actually when I look hard at it, there is no real need for it. The proposed helicopter that you are talking about operates only in good weather and in daylight. The maritime agency will provide us with a helicopter in all weathers, day and night, throughout the year so that is our prime resource in the event of needing a helicopter. Currently, the demand according to the ambulance service is not there.”

Mr Carr from the Ireland Air Ambulance charity has agreed that if the NHS does not avail of the service it could be a white elephant. However, if the air ambulance arrives it is likely that there will be public and political pressure to have it integrated into health care here. That then raises the question of whether or not the running costs would be able to be fully met by the charity and if not whether the NHS will end up being pressurised to fund a service which may not be necessary. The potential problem of the aircraft being unable to fly in bad weather or at night also seems a significant issue as does McGimpsey’s suggestion that helicopters are already available when necessary.

  • villager

    Why does we everybody seem to want an air ambulance anyway? The NHS looked into it and could’t justify it on economic grounds, they said the money would be better spent elsewhere. Wind it up.

  • SM

    Sounds like a great white elephant! Perhaps they can call their helicopter Dumbo when thye finally get one…

  • aquifer

    Gave them £2 at the weekend. Damn.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Sounds like a scam “In our first year, 90% of income was spent on operational costs such as salaries, premises, travel expenses, professional fees”

    But perhaps thats the nature of some “charities”?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “and actually when I look hard at it, there is no real need for it. The proposed helicopter that you are talking about operates only in good weather and in daylight. The maritime agency will provide us with a helicopter in all weathers, day and night, throughout the year so that is our prime resource in the event of needing a helicopter. Currently, the demand according to the ambulance service is not there.”
    Nevin, if “helicopter” was replaced with “passenger only vessel” would Spud say the same?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “For more than 100 years HM Coastguard, now part of the Maritime Coastguard Agency, has coordinated rescues around the coast, and more recently the lakes and waterways of Northern Ireland.

    Coastguard volunteers risk their lives to save others
    But now there’s a new kid on the block – Coastguard Northern Ireland, which is made up of more than 50 volunteers, some of whom were trained and once served as volunteers with the “official” Coastguard.

    “We started to get enquiries from the police, asking what this organisation Coastguard NI was, and what its relationship with Her Majesty’s Coastguard was,” explains Richard Newell, who runs the Rescue Coordination Centre at HM Coastguard in Bangor.

    “At present there is no relationship,” he said.

    “We know very little about it, but Coastguard NI is not affiliated, supported by, or sponsored by HM Coastguard in any way whatsoever.”

    He has made this clear in a letter sent to the police and local authorities.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7061258.stm

    More questions may need to be asked about the above group who has received various (ultimately taxpayer)funding and now call themselves “Bann Search and Rescue”. Interestingly their “chairman”/”Regional commander”/ “commodore” was once part of the Official MCA Search and Rescue Services, but left under a cloud..

    “HM Coastguard says help is always welcome, but just now it isn’t needed in Northern Ireland.”

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7472508.stm

    “Police have provided the group with a rescue boat from the Policing With The Community Fund”

    Sean McCarry from the Bann Rescue said the Community Rescue Service is a charitable organisation established to prevent the loss of life from within the local communities in which its units operate.
    “A number of units have been established in Northern Ireland, in areas such as Ballycastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint, and now Coleraine,” he said.
    “Each unit will be able to respond by pager alert 24/7 either independently or as part of a major response.”

    But earlier this year the group had appeared to change their name (Again)to “Coleraine Search and Rescue”(?)

    http://coleraine.thechronicle.uk.com/articles/news/5617/body-of-missing-woman-found/

    “CRS Regional Commander, Sean McCarry”

    “Sean McCarry, vice chairman of Bann Search and Rescue”

    “Regional Co-ordinator from CRS, Sean McCarry”

    The group does not appear to have a website nor would they appear to be a registered charity, but then who knows what they are called this week?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “He insists they should be seen as a complementary organisation.

    “There’s no rivalry involved here and we are determined there won’t be.”

    It’s up to that organisation to decide, do they want to use our resource.”

    Someone should perhaps ask how Mr Mc Carry recruited his original “volunteers” and how “that” organisation would use the “resource” where there is dual membership?

  • Comrade Stalin

    The thing to watch out for in Northern Ireland is that there is some sort of reglatory loophole that means just about anybody can set themselves up as a charity. I don’t think the regulation of charities elsewhere in the UK applies here.

    Pigeon Toes, I do not believe we have the concept of a “registered charity” here.

  • Pigeoon Toes

    Comrade Stalin

    My apologies, but I would be very, very interested in finding out where the funding has come from.

    “Costguard NI” had a very early web presence but not in their new incarnation (I can’t find them)

    Concern further exists about some of their Search and Rescue “methods”.

    It seems that the vice chairman/commander/regional co-ordinator has friends in “high” places…

  • Charity watcher

    CS

    For a charity to be recognised in Northern Ireland it must convince the Inland Revenue that it is properly formed and incorporated.

    Unfortunately, many groups do not bother registering and go about on their merry way fundraising without control.

    If a ‘charity’ based in NI does not have an inland revenue charity number then don’t donate.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “The Community Rescue Service is always looking for interested people who may wish to volunteer their services to the local community, should you want to learn more about this essential service or be able to offer your help in any way then please contact them on 07769724440.”

  • Mannanan

    It seems strange that there are two organisations now sitting like cuckoos in the Northern Ireland nest. Ireland Air Ambulance doesn’t have a place according to the statutory bodies, neither does the Coleraine Rescue Service. Whilst CRS purport to work on inland waters, what role do the units in Ballycastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint serve? Where does the funding for this ‘charitable organisation’ come from? I am aware that the North West Mountain Rescue Team have been long established and supported by community collections; they cover inland and coastal regions, are recognised by the PSNI and Coastguard and train to recognised standards. The RNLI are supported by public donation, also recognised by all and do an excellent job in all conditions. Who certifies the expertise of the CRS? Has the MCA coded the plethora of ‘rescue boats’ on the tidal River Bann? Who is ultimately responsible if there is injury or a fatality during a rescue by these ‘Have a Go’ heroes?
    Northern Ireland is a small province – it supports it’s established services well…… dilution of that support by these Johnny Come Latelies can only be to the detriment of all.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “what role do the units in Ballycastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint serve?”

    they existed under “Coastguard Northern Ireland”, well Ballycastle did anyhow.

    Under the “community Rescue Service” banner, erm the Bann Unit would appear to be the only unit.

    However with the number of boats donated (by PSN it seems) there may be plans to branch out.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Established in September 2007, CRS is an on-call service made up of local community volunteers. These volunteers take part in regular training operations and are prepared for any rescue situation, including river or land based accidents or suicide attempts e.g. from local bridges.”

    http://www.theleader.uk.com/articles/news/3602/up-to-the-test/

  • Pigeon Toes

    “any rescue situation”, Hmm theres a few plants here not looking too healthy…

  • Pigeon Toes

    CRS Bann Rescue requested a £60,000 grant from Ballymoney Council last summer ttp://www.ballymoney.gov.uk/LAC 347 – 19th August 2008.pdf

    Wonder if they got it?

  • Pigeon Toes

    oops http://www.ballymoney.gov.uk/LAC 347 – 19th August 2008.pdf

  • PT, that ballymoney link [pdf file]

  • I am a director of the North West Air Ambulance we cover Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria (so an area geographically like Ireland). There are 18 air ambulances running 30 helicopters in England, Scotland and Wales. Ireland is about the only area in Europe not to have one so ask yourself the obvious question why and more importantly rather than taking a pop at the charity ask the politicians and the Civil Servants why?

    Sure box vans and cars (i.e. ambulances) are important but every day our helicopters fly they save lives. Have you ever tried getting a box van up a hill or on a football field or to a motorway pile up in minutes. Also how fast can your box van travel? We can get to the nearest hospital from anywhere in less than ten minutes – that is the difference between life and death. Also if you have a serious spinal injury would you rather travel through Belfast or Derry or any country lane over speed humps and corners etc.

    Keep supporting your air ambulance you need one.