We are an organisation that serves the entire county of Devon as well as surrounding counties when required.  

Every year, we respond to hundreds of calls for time-critical care and today we are 30% busier than before the pandemic; the demands on our medical, paramedic and wider support teams are extraordinary.

Weather extremes make it harder for land crews to reach patients

Our crews bring time-critical care to the scene of medical and trauma incidents across locations as diverse as rural villages, agricultural settings, cities and towns, coastline, and remote moorland. We encounter all sorts of challenging terrain and weather conditions.  

We are ready to expect the unexpected, but increasing frequent extreme weather events because of climate breakdown present more regular challenges for both our patients and therefore our crew.  

Storms, flooding, and snowfall increase the demand on our aircraft as land emergency vehicles can struggle to reach patients, while periods of extreme heat have a bearing on the weight our aircraft can carry.  

This can mean that we are obliged to leave a member of our crew at the scene to accommodate the changes in payload brought about by the hotter temperatures.  

The impact of weather events on our patients

Diminished air quality due to pollution has a documented impact on patient health while temperature extremes can influence how well our patients respond to treatment.  

More broadly, environmental conditions can increase the spread of infectious diseases, potentially putting our crew at risk. If too many members of our crew fall ill, then we have no service.  

The psychological impact of extreme weather such as flooding is also well established. Those who have lost homes to flooding can experience PTSD, while more people than ever are experiencing what has been termed ‘climate anxiety.’

The impact of weather events on our crew

Our crew is not exempt from these impacts and their wellbeing is crucial. Furthermore, higher temperatures influence their physical wellbeing as they must wear very thick specialist fire-retardant garments and carry heavy gear - particularly challenging in sustained hot weather.  

While the health impact of climate breakdown is broadly understood, the strain on the NHS is felt by our service too.  

While we are a charity that is 100% independent of government funding, our service has become measurably more in demand in recent years while such immense strain is being placed on our under-resourced public health service.  

The provision the NHS can offer is stretched further still by patients who might be suffering the impact of extreme cold during times of the ongoing energy affordability crisis – a product of enviro-political and economic forces.

At other times of year, extreme heat impacts the vulnerable most - the young and the elderly, particularly.

How can our service respond to the impact of the environmental crisis?

Being environmentally sustainable and ensuring our own resilience in the face of more frequent environmental and political shocks means we can be there for our patients, now and into the future. That resilience includes the need for a dependable and affordable energy source.

Interruptions to our energy supply are serious as it could limit our ability to operate.

We need a reliable energy source to fly our aircraft, operate our fleet, manage our buildings, keep our workforce running and our medicines cool.

Political conflicts with environmental ramifications, such as the war in Ukraine which exacerbated the existing upward trajectory of hikes to energy prices, come at a cost to our bottom line.  

Shocks to the energy market mean we also pay substantially more to operate our service than we had done previously. As a charity that exists entirely thanks to the support of the communities we serve, without any government funding, the increased cost of energy and labour comes directly from the donations of our supporters.  

Sustainability means saving lives

With our plans for a new HQ and Operations Centre underway, we aim to be minimally dependent on the grid, with carbon neutral sustainable buildings within a Net Zero timeframe to help ensure a healthy future for the charity.  

Our income Generation strategy is about ensuring our financial resilience so that we can respond to the unexpected and unknown impact of the unfolding environmental crisis, to ensure a continued uninterrupted service.

We care about our people and the patients our crews serve. Being environmentally sustainable means we can continue to save lives.  

Read more about our Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship goals and progress.