Air ambulance stresses its commitment

A CHARITY which provides air ambulance services to Northumberland has reiterated its commitment to the region following speculation that it was scaling back.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has appealed to residents for backing, following reports that it was no longer serving the northernmost parts of the region.

A Gazette report of a North Sunderland Parish Council meeting stated that the council was considering withholding financial support for the charity because it was no longer operating in its area.

But Barbra Walton, director of support services at GNAAS, strongly denied those suggestions.

“We are not sure where these rumours came from, but we can happily say that there is no truth whatsoever in them,” she added.

“With costs of fuel so high, it is now imperative that we receive more support from the communities which we serve, not less.”

The charity has two bases for aircraft, one at Durham Tees Valley Airport, near Darlington, and one at Langwathby, near Penrith.

The aircraft can be on the scene anywhere in Northumberland within 25 minutes. Flights into the major trauma centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle usually take no longer than 20 minutes.

Mrs Walton said these journey times were only possible because the charity has replaced its fleet of older, rented aircraft with three modern helicopters.

She added that the upgrade enabled it to fly more missions, in worse weather, and at faster speeds.

“Our commitment to all Northumberland communities remains at 100 per cent, just as it always has been,” she said.

“To demonstrate this, last year alone we responded to 177 requests for assistance in the county.

“We are quicker, more reliable, and better equipped than ever before, but now we need the support of the Northumberland public to allow us to continue to operate at this level.”