VIDEO Feature: Life saving charity flying high after 25 years

It costs a mammoth six million pounds to run every year.

But the generosity of people across Sussex knows no bounds when it comes to keeping their only air ambulance service in the sky.



And 25 years after it was first launched, the vital service is still going strong and is planning to celebrate the milestone.

The Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance was founded in late 1989 to provide an air ambulance service oringally for the people of Kent.

In 2005, doctors were first placed on board, and in 2007, the Trust expanded its service and launched a second helicopter to cover the counties of Surrey and Sussex.

It is the only service of its kind in the region and last year the charity responded to around 2,400 calls.

Covering thousands of square miles across the three counties about 40 per cent of the calls involve road traffic collisions. Horse riding injuries and motorbike injuries are also near the top of the call out list.

Blood supplies were carried on board for the first time in February 2013 allowing blood transfusions to be carried out at the scene.

The helicopters fly an average up to eight missions a day from its two bases, one at Marden near Maidstone and the second from Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey.

Marden flies from 7am to 7pm and Redill 24 hours a day.

Each crew consists of a specialist doctor and paramedic paid by the NHS.

The charity introduced blood products on both helicopters just over a year ago and have just won a research award for a paper on the first ten months of this vital service.

The HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) gives blood to patients on average seven times a month.

“We take A & E directly to the scene,” said Jill Playle, the charity’s director of communications, “It costs £6 million a year to operate the service 24 hours a day. A lot of people don’t realise that we are not Government funded or part of the NHS. We are an independent health care provider and almost all of that money, the £6 million we need every year, comes from donations.

“People understand what the air ambulance is all about. If they are seriously ill or they are seriously injured then they do need the skills of the specialist doctor and a critical care paramedic we have on board our helicopters. So effectively we take accident and emergency to the patient.”

Volunteer Jill Walsh, 59, told the Observer, “I moved down to the area (Marden) about three years ago and wanted to do something to help my confidence.

“So I became a volunteer and I’ve never looked back. People are so generous. It’s fantastic.”

“It costs about £2500 for every mission but luckily people give very generously.”

Dr Neal Durge from Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service said: “Hundreds of lives have been saved over the years through the air ambulance service.

“As our logo says we are a charity that saves lives and I am very proud to say we do save lives.

In our video, Mark Bishop finds out more.