Great Western Air Ambulance Charity – Latest News

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Air Ambulances UK has announced its shortlist of award nominees for the 2022 Awards of Excellence, sponsored by Airbus. Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) is delighted to have been shortlisted in six categories.

The annual awards celebrate and recognise the specialist lifesaving skills and commitment of those working tirelessly within, and in support of, the air ambulance community.

Being shortlisted for six awards this year shows that GWAAC’s crew, charity staff and volunteers have been working as hard as ever to deliver a first-class pre-hospital critical care service to their local communities.

GWAAC has been shortlisted for the following awards:

  • Breaking Barriers — Vicki Brown, Advanced Practitioner in Critical Care — for an air ambulance charity or individual who has demonstrated exceptional, practical commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion in their workplace.
  • Charity Staff Member of the Year Joe Hughes, Strategic Partnerships Manager — for a staff member who has made an outstanding example of contributions to an air ambulance charity, employment record and evidence of high professional standards of performance and achievement.

  • Charity Volunteer of the Year Pino Gianitti, Great Western Heartstarters Volunteer — to recognise the valuable and essential contribution of volunteers to air ambulance charities. Their contribution might be in supporting events, fundraising, head office administration support or any other type of volunteering that has had a significant impact and benefit to an air ambulance charity over the past 12 months.
  • Innovation of the Year award Public Access Defibrillator Project — for an innovation that has been launched and is delivering significant beneficial impact for an individual charity or air ambulance sector in the last 12 months and that is substantially helping improve service delivery.
  • Operations Support Staff of the Year Richard Jenkinson, Base Aircraft Engineer — for an operations support staff member in recognition of either a sustained period of exemplary and outstanding service or a single incident involving Helicopter Emergency Medical Services operations that is of special note from the past 12 months.
  • Special Incident GWAAC Tactical Medicine Training in Ukraine — for an extraordinary air ambulance charity lifesaving mission that has been undertaken in the past 12 months.

A spokesperson for GWAAC, said: “We’re very proud of all our shortlisted nominees for their efforts in continually striving to provide the best service to the people and communities they serve. We will be keeping everything crossed for them on Awards night because in our eyes they all deserve to win.”

The annual awards ceremony is being held at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham on 14 November. This will be the first in-person awards ceremony for the AAUK community since the start of the pandemic.

Simmy Akhtar, Air Ambulances UK CEO said “Congratulations to all those who have been shortlisted after long and hard deliberations from our independent judging panel all of whom have volunteered their time to support the recognition of our air ambulance community. Thank you to all those who submitted awards nominations and we look forward to welcoming colleagues to our in person Annual Conference and Awards later this year.”

1. GWAAC provide the critical care and air ambulance service for 2.1 million people across the counties of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, and parts of Wiltshire.
2. The GWAAC Critical Care Team consists of highly trained and experienced Critical Care Doctors, Advanced Practitioners, and Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care, who bring the skill and expertise of a hospital emergency department to the patient.
3. 2021 was the charity’s second-busiest year to date, with 1,964 call-outs. The Critical Care Team attends an average of over five incidents a day, either by helicopter or in one of three critical care cars. On average each mission costs around £2,000 to attend.
4. The charity needs to raise over £4 million a year in order to remain operational, yet receives no day-to-day funding from the Government or National Lottery.

Air Ambulance Week 2022 is taking off across the UK on 5-11 September to raise awareness of the lifesaving work of air ambulance charities across the UK.

During the National Awareness Week, organised by Air Ambulances UK, Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) will join other air ambulance charities across the country in a campaign called ‘Critical Moments – Life-Saving Difference.’

The national campaign highlights how air ambulance charities, such as GWAAC, make a life-saving difference in critical moments.  Anyone can become a patient at any time.  Air ambulance crews bring the skills and expertise of a hospital emergency department to the scene of an emergency, performing complex procedures using advanced equipment and drugs that improve survival rates.

GWAAC provides the critical care and air ambulance service for 2.1 million people across the counties of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, and parts of Wiltshire.  The GWAAC Critical Care Team consists of highly trained and experienced Critical Care Doctors, Advanced Practitioners and Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care.

2021 was the charity’s second-busiest year to date, with 1,964 call-outs.  The Critical Care Team attends an average of over five incidents a day, either by helicopter or in one of three critical care cars.  On average each mission costs around £2,000 to attend.  The charity needs to raise over £4 million a year to remain operational yet receives no day-to-day funding from the Government or National Lottery.

GWAAC is calling on people all over the region it serves to support the charity during Air Ambulance Week 2022 to ensure it can continue to save the lives of people like Adrian.

Adrian was cycling from Taunton to Bristol when he collided with a lorry.  He says, “When you do need your local air ambulance charity you will be forever grateful…people that donate are playing a massive, massive part in keeping these specialist paramedics out there.  This really does need a contribution, even if it’s a pound a month, £5 a month,  or a one-off donation of a fiver. Every penny counts and it all goes to the critical care they provide.  That’s what GWAAC is about.”

If you’d like to get involved and learn how you can help GWAAC continue to make a lifesaving difference in critical moments, the GWAAC website tells you all you need to know.

Air ambulance facts from Air Ambulances UK:

  • Air Ambulances UK is the official national charity that champions, supports and represents the lifesaving work, of air ambulance charities, enabling them to save the lives of even more people who suddenly experience a life-threatening injury or medical emergency every day across the UK.
  • There are 21 individual air ambulance charities in the UK, which provide pre-hospital care support to the NHS and form an important part of the UK’s frontline emergency services
  • There are 37 air ambulance helicopters operating across the 21 individual air ambulance charities
  • Air ambulance charities collectively make an average of over 100 lifesaving missions every day – that’s over 30,000 a year
  • Around 68% of all air ambulance charity lifesaving missions are to people who are critically injured in incidents such as road traffic collisions, falls, workplace incidents and sporting or leisure accidents
  • About 32% of missions are to people with a sudden medical emergency
  • Among the most frequent type of lifesaving missions are to people seriously injured in road traffic collisions and those experiencing a sudden cardiac-related medical emergency

Air Ambulance Crew making a difference in Ukraine

A group of volunteers from the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity’s (GWAAC) Critical Care Team have recently returned from a different kind of mission — in Ukraine.

On Sunday 26 June 2022, GWAAC’s Critical Care Doctors, James Tooley, Ed Valentine and Andrew Heavyside, along with SPCCs Pete Reeve, Callum Sutton and Matt Robinson set off on a 25-hour journey to Kyiv.

The volunteers went to Kyiv with the intention of teaching a tactical medicine course to prepare civilians to respond to trauma incidents as and when needed during the conflict. They delivered training over two days and returned to the UK on 1 July 2022.

On arrival in Kyiv, the group responded to local needs and demands and taught around 60 people selected for the course. These were mostly office workers such as diplomats and ambassadors at an increased risk of a missile strike on their place of work. Some also travel between towns and cities as part of their role and are at an increased risk of landmines and ambush.  The training was delivered through translators which slowed the pace a little but SPCC, Pete Reeve said, “It was pretty straightforward.”  The training covered themes such as how to stop bleeding, using a tourniquet, giving CPR and the triage process. Pete says, “Triage is important. If their building is hit by a missile, they need to be able to identify which injuries are most severe, so they know who to treat first.”

As well as providing training in lifesaving tactical medicine, the volunteers also left supplies of tourniquets, dressings, and bandages for the trainees. Specialist paediatric equipment was gifted to an intensive care unit in Kyiv and two fully equipped response bags, dressings and iGels were given to frontline hospitals, taken by the security firm that looked after the volunteers while in Ukraine.

How and why the trip came about

A combination of influencing factors came together at the right time. Namely, the willingness of the crew, additional funding from a private source, and the contacts and logistical knowledge acquired by Dr James and Dr Ed on a previous visit to Ukraine where they tried to help some very sick children.  The group went as volunteers with the full support of GWAAC.

GWAAC is known for being one of the best Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM) training centres in the country. Teaching other medical professionals how to deal with the most serious of trauma injuries is one of its skillsets. The group of volunteers provided gold standard medical training to people in Ukraine who otherwise wouldn’t have received it.  An important aspect of the mission was security. The trip was only ever going to be possible with some form of protection for the group of volunteers. This came from a private security firm and a High-Risk Advisor called Joel Bennet who is an experienced medic specialising in austere environments. Joel stayed with the group throughout the trip, keeping them updated on the developments in the conflict in Ukraine.

The impact of the trip

The intention of the trip was to have as big an impact as possible within a relatively short space of time. The volunteers achieved this in three ways:

  • They provided the best possible medical training to a group of people who would really benefit. In this case, government employees with little medical experience and more likely to be in a targeted building, e.g. a Foreign Office, than the general population. The training would give them the know-how and confidence to administer lifesaving first aid
  • They gave the trainees the skills, confidence and equipment to pass down to others in their community; to help make them self-sufficient
  • They equipped the trainees with lifesaving equipment such as tourniquets and dressings. And they donated medical supplies to hospitals

SPCC, Pete said:60 people received high-quality medical training they otherwise wouldn’t have got. One attendee came both days and told us how overnight she had been teaching her family what she had learned during the day. It’s a very sobering thought; that for them, the missiles, the bombing, the loss of loved ones… is a very real threat. We encouraged them to pass on their new skills to as many people as possible. We gave them the knowledge, the confidence and the medical supplies to deal with things. And they were just so very grateful.”

GWAAC, proud of the volunteers

Great Western Air Ambulance Charity’s Critical Care Team is a select group of highly skilled individuals who can make a huge difference to people in urgent need of lifesaving pre-hospital care.

GWAAC Critical Care Doctors and Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care (SPCC) are professionals in every sense of the word, and it’s in their nature to want to help people whenever and wherever they can.

“I’m very proud of the group of volunteers who helped in Ukraine. They were willing to travel to a country in conflict to use their skills to help people in need. We are very lucky to have such passionate, selfless and caring individuals in the Critical Care Team and serving their local communities.”

Anna Perry, CEO, Great Western Air Ambulance Charity.


Local air ambulance charity opens shop in Cheltenham to help fund lifesaving service

Cheltenham’s local air ambulance service, Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC), will be opening the doors of its new charity shop for the first time on Tuesday 12 July.

Shoppers can grab a bargain from 09:00 onwards, following an opening ceremony with local business leaders, GWAAC CEO, Anna Perry, and GWAAC volunteers, crew and former patients.

The charity is encouraging the people of Cheltenham and surrounding areas to visit the new shop, donate items and find out about volunteering opportunities.

The shop is located at 272-274 High Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 3HQ. It will be GWAAC’s third shop to operate within its region (GWAAC charity shops can also be found in Yate and Westbury-on-Trym). The new shop in Cheltenham will help raise vital funds for the charity which will enable it to continue providing a lifesaving service to local communities.

GWAAC provides the critical care and air ambulance service for 2.1 million people across Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, and parts of Wiltshire. So far in 2022, GWAAC has responded to 276 missions in Gloucestershire which makes up 30% of its total call-outs and 33 of those were in Cheltenham.

Each call-out costs around £2,000, and the charity is facing extra fundraising pressure with the cost of its helicopter fuel going up from £50,000 a year to almost £80,000 a year. That’s an increase of around 60%.

“The new shop will help raise awareness of the charity’s lifesaving work in Cheltenham and raise much-needed funds to keep the crew flying and to ensure that they can continue to be there for those in need. It’s a community shop in every sense of the word; it will encourage people to shop local and support their high street. It will also mean that GWAAC becomes a household name for the communities we serve. Even the road to get here has been a community affair; I want to say a huge thank you to the teams from Spirax Sarco UK and Ireland who volunteered a huge amount of time to help with everything from cleaning and sanding, to building walls and sorting donations in preparation for our opening.”

Jason Webster, Retail Manager, GWAAC

The shop will be open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday. If you have any good quality donations you would like to drop off, please leave them with someone at the shop during the day. If you have furniture donations, please get in touch with us beforehand via email at or by calling 07393 620751.

If you are interested in volunteering for your local air ambulance charity’s new shop, you can find out more by asking inside the shop or getting in touch with our Volunteer Coordinator

GWAAC Cardiac Arrest Survivor calls on locals to get active

Take part in the Gloucester 10k on 26th June 2022

Keen runner, Cheltenham resident, and cardiac arrest survivor, Forrest Wheeler is urging locals to put on their running shoes and register for the Gloucester 10k on 26th June 2022 in Gloucester Park.

Five years ago, Forrest suffered a cardiac arrest and was helped by the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC), a charity now close to his heart. He lives to tell the tale and says his love of running was a real motivator in his recovery.

Forrest recently completed his 100th parkrun to mark the five-year anniversary of his cardiac arrest. He said, “The guys (GWAAC crew) should give themselves a pat on the back for getting me to that milestone.”

It was during his first-ever parkrun at Pittville Park in Cheltenham that Forrest suffered a heart attack followed immediately by a cardiac arrest. He can’t remember much about that day; he can only remember pulling on his trainers and starting the run. His next memory is of waking from a coma three days later. But if he hadn’t been in the right place at the right time when he suffered his cardiac arrest, things could have been very different for Forrest. Instead, what followed was an extraordinary chain of circumstances that saved his life:

  • Firstly, running behind him were three NHS professionals who were able to administer good quality CPR immediately after he collapsed
  • Secondly, there was a fire engine parked nearby with a defibrillator on board. Forrest received defibrillation within seven minutes of having the cardiac arrest
  • Thirdly, the GWAAC crew got to Forrest quickly, they were able to stabilise him and get him to hospital fast.

And what’s more, the cardiologist who fitted Forrest’s stents at the Bristol Heart Institute, turned out to be the husband of one of the doctors who happened to be running behind Forrest and who tried to help him that day.

Forrest says, “Approximately 83 other people in the UK suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrests on that day in April. Seven of us survived to tell the tale.”

Forrest now heartily advocates the importance of CPR and defibrillation training, as well as the health benefits of running. Events like the Gloucester 10k, not only promote fitness and encourage a healthy lifestyle but there’s a social side and a sense of community too.

The entry fee is £21 and registrations can be made through the GWAAC Gloucester 10k web page. There is no minimum fundraising target but if runners commit to raising £100, they will receive a free GWAAC running vest. Individuals or teams can take part and all runners will set off from Gloucester Park and follow the same route as last year taking in the Cathedral, Gloucester Docks, Gloucester Quays and sections of the canal towpath.

Forrest himself plans to help out on the day at the GWAAC marquee. GWAAC wants to say a huge thank you to Forrest and to organisers Davies and Partners Solicitors and Gloucester Quays Rotary Club for putting on the event. The charity wishes all who participate an enjoyable day.


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