The air ambulance serving Sussex is on call day and night to give first-class emergency medical treatment in the most difficult to reach places, before quickly transporting patients to the most appropriate specialist hospital.
The team is fully equipped to save lives, but 89 percent of its funding comes from the public’s generosity and with traditional fundraising methods on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, Air Ambulance Kent Surrey and Sussex (KSS) has launched an emergency appeal to keep its vital service running.
This is the first time an emergency appeal has been launched in the charity’s 30-year history.
Following a government grant of £140,000, KSS has already raised more than £1million, just over a third of the total shortfall it was predicting.
Many locals are still doing their bit to fundraise for the charity but more help is needed to keep KSS in the air.
David Welch, chief executive at KSS, said: “We simply cannot thank people enough for the support we have received so far.
“When we launched our appeal, we aimed to raise £535,000 initially to meet the immediate additional costs of continuing our life-saving service during the pandemic and we have received an amazing response.
“It is truly humbling how generous people can be. We’ve received help from a wide range of sources and in a variety of forms – from financial donations from our supporters and the communities we serve, through to PPE from local businesses, the loan of four vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover and a large supply of oil and AdBlue for our response vehicles from Moove.
“Every single donation, every single gift has helped, and we are so thankful to everyone who has responded so far.
“Yet despite this, and the contribution from government, with the continued impact of the pandemic, we still face a significant shortfall of £1.9million.”
KSS serves a population of 4.8million plus those travelling through the area. It operates three helicopters and four land vehicles with a team of 12 pilots, 17 doctors, 14 Emeritus doctors and 14 paramedics. Its work would not be possible without the 185 active volunteers.
Over the past 30 years, KSS has attended more than 30,000 life-threatening incidents .
Mr Welch added: “Last year, we were called out to help more than 2,500 people in life-threatening situations across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
“We have an outstanding, highly skilled medical team and we are determined to continue to deliver the best possible outcomes for our patients and to continue to run our charity efficiently and responsibly.
“To secure our future, we urgently need your continued support – there are so many ways you can join those in the community who have already supported and got involved. Let’s work together to continue to save lives during this difficult and unprecedented time.”
One of those fundraisers working to help reduce the shortfall is five-year-old Murray Miles, from East Sussex, who has raised £7,284, after the air ambulance helped save his dad’s life.
Inspired by his dad, a sporting enthusiast, Murray decided to run a marathon over the course of five days.
He successfully completed his laps on April 30, running more than five miles a day in a field at the back of his house.
He completed the 26-mile run in five hours, 31 minutes.
Murray’s mum, Emily Miles, said: “Murray’s dad, Noel, is still in hospital recovering from his accident but we can’t thank KSS enough for being quick to the scene and helping to save his life.
“Noel has taken part in six Ironman triathlons and more than 25 marathons so Murray decided to do this challenge to be like Daddy who is his hero. We are all so proud of Murray and amazed at his energy, enthusiasm and positivity throughout the whole challenge. It truly is an amazing achievement for someone so young.
“It has been a cathartic experience sharing what has been a very private and difficult time for our family to now feeling we are starting to emerge from the other side, taking charge of our lives again. With Murray’s magnificent fundraising efforts we can give back to the charity that has given us so much and hopefully we can have a positive influence on other people’s lives.”
Murray said: “I am proud that I ran the marathon and I wasn’t at all tired!”
Lynne Harris, executive director of income generation at KSS, said: “Murray is a delightful little boy with an infectious, positive spirit.
“We are so honoured to have witnessed his determination and caring nature.”
The air ambulance has saved thousands of lives in Sussex over the years and families are forever grateful for their work, Jim Hardwick, from Horsham, was out cycling when he fell off his bike and suffered a serious head injury. His wife Amy was nine months pregnant at the time and at home looking after their toddler.
Amy said: “Without the fast response from this amazing charity, I don’t know what kind of brain injury Jim could have been left with – or whether he would still be with us at all. It’s thanks to all those people who support the air ambulance that it was there for us when our family needed it. I am just so grateful.”
KSS has been rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in all five of its inspection criteria - safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.
It is the only air ambulance service to have achieved this. KSS is the busiest in the UK and is also the only UK air ambulance service to fly 24/7.
Its world-leading doctors and paramedics are highly skilled and can perform hospital-level procedures at the scene of an incident, including administering general anaesthetic and open heart surgery, often in challenging environments.
Dr Helen Bowcock, chair of the board of trustees, said: “In this eventful year, which has brought unprecedented challenges for KSS, we have pulled together as one organisation and I could not be more proud to be chair.
“Throughout the coronavirus crisis our staff have worked tirelessly to operate the life-saving service and to raise essential funds, under David Welch’s exceptional and inspiring leadership.
“As a charity which grew out of the community we are reliant upon, and immensely grateful for, all of the support we receive from local residents. On behalf of the board I want to express our sincere thanks to our very generous donors and volunteers throughout Sussex and beyond.”
Visit www.aakss.org.uk/appeal to find out how you can help raise funds for our local air ambulance.