Did you know that Devon Air Ambulance (DAA) doesn’t respond to incidents when it’s dark? There are a lot of people that think we are available all the time, but the reality is, mostly due to cost but also to operating restrictions, it is not. But the great news is that, thanks to you, our service could soon be available into the night.
The Charity which funds the two Air Ambulance service is committed to continually improving and developing its service and has set a target to extend flying hours to 10pm all year around from 2016, with a further extension to midnight from 2017.
The newest Devon Air Ambulance, which has been in operation for almost a year, is already equipped to fly at night but will still need some additional items of equipment fitted such as extra spot lights, a wire detection system, enhanced mapping and potentially a Night Vision camera system. Night Vision Goggles (NVG’s) will also be required for the crew. We will need to increase the number of aircrew so that we can operate into the night without reducing the level of our service during the daytime. In all, the cost of funding the new equipment, increasing our crew numbers, ensuring they are trained to the highest standard, and of course the costs associated with the helicopter flying to a greater number of incidents, will see our fundraising target rise by £1 million pounds every year.
During the darker winter months there are only around 8 hours of daylight during which currently we are able to respond to patients. This means that from about 5pm onwards our service is not able to help people. Therefore an important part of our plans to operate during the hours of darkness is about covering the winter rush hour and early evening when people are very much in need of our service. During the lighter summer months we extend the period we deliver our service and at present we are able to respond up to 14 hours each day. This extension of flying hours started in just 2011 and straightaway proved an evening service is needed as we were able to attend to more than 50 patients during the longer evenings.
Due to patient confidentiality we don’t know who we help but thankfully South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust agreed to write to these patients on behalf of Devon Air Ambulance so that we could share some of their stories with you. People like Roy Rowden, 56 of Blackawton who fell from a roof.
Roy was ensuring that a flat roof on his bungalow was watertight when he fell and needed emergency medical help.
His wife, Jayne, had been working indoors when she heard an almighty crash and ran outside. She found Roy lying unconscious and saw immediately that his breathing was laboured. Roy was also bleeding from his nose and a head wound and his eye socket was beginning to swell.
Jayne, who is trained as a nurse, immediately called 999 and an Air Ambulance was despatched. As the aircrew were on their way, Roy regained consciousness and tried to get up. Jayne was relieved to hear the helicopter landing in a neighbouring field and the crew ran to the scene where they assessed Roy; administering pain relief and immobilising him.
Roy was flown to the specialist head injuries unit at Derriford Hospital where he was treated for a fractured skull, broken jaw and broken eye socket. As the aircrew were leaving Roy at the hospital they reassured Jayne and her sons about the treatment Roy would receive.
Roy spent many months recovering and, whilst he still has no memory of the incident, Jayne explained, “It was very frightening at the time. Roy was slipping in and out of consciousness and his behaviour was certainly very odd. I remember thinking “Thank Goodness” when I heard the Air Ambulance arrive and the crew were so calm and professional. It was lovely of them to come and find us at Derriford. Things could have turned out very differently if they hadn’t been able to fly Roy to hospital so quickly.”
Heléna Holt, Chief Executive of Devon Air Ambulance Trust said “Extending flying hours during the summer, where daylight allows, has highlighted what a difference even just a few more hours in the evening make. People don’t stop getting ill or having accidents just because it gets dark.”
She added “Of course extending the service has a cost implication. The first phase of our ‘Help us make night time flight time’ campaign is to raise awareness of our future plans and encourage supporters to find out a bit more about how and why we are doing it and how they can help us make night time flight time.”
For further information on our night flying campaign click here.