Cornwall Air Ambulance helped 675 people last year... Enough to fill 10 double deckers

Falmouth Packet: Geoff Atkinson with Aircrew Paramedics Mick McLachlan and Steve Garvey Geoff Atkinson with Aircrew Paramedics Mick McLachlan and Steve Garvey

IN 2013 Cornwall Air Ambulance went to the assistance of 675 patients – enough people to fill more than 10 double decker buses.

The air ambulance flew an average of 56 rescue missions per month, with May the busiest month, seeing 89 calls for assistance.

2013 saw a significant increase in the number of agricultural and industrial incidents attended by the air ambulance. 22 such incidents were attended in 2013 – up from 12 the previous year.

Almost two thirds of calls were to patients suffering medical emergencies like cardiac arrest and stroke. The remaining rescues were to patients suffering serious trauma injuries – including those involved in road traffic collisions, sports injuries and industrial accidents – or to transfer patients between hospitals.

Geoff Atkinson was rescued by Cornwall Air Ambulance in 2013 after falling four metres from a ladder at his remote cottage between Camborne and Helston.

Geoff suffered a fractured skull and spine and broke every rib on the right side of his chest in two places, leaving him with a potentially life-threatening condition known as a flail chest.

Paramedics were so concerned about Geoff’s breathing that he was taken straight to Treliske Hospital to be stabilised, before being transferred to the Major Trauma Unit at Derriford Hospital.

“It only took 10 minutes to get to Treliske, said Geoff. “That was when the air ambulance really came into its own and made a huge difference to my recovery. I can never thank the team who responded that day enough. From the land paramedics to the air ambulance crew and hospital staff, they were all fantastic.”

Incidents like Geoff’s, where patients had fallen from height, accounted for around 10% of missions, with 72 such rescues flown, up from 56 in 2012.

10% of missions were to attend patients aged 16 and under, with some of these young people being transferred straight to the specialist children’s hospital in Bristol.

The air ambulance attended 74 Road Traffic Collisions, accounting for 11% of all missions, whilst 43 people were helped after sports injuries, including horse riders and surfers.

Lead aircrew paramedic Steve Garvey said: “Often it’s these sort of calls where a patient will really benefit from the response of the air ambulance.

“Where patients are in difficult to access, rural locations such as beaches and moorlands, or have possible spinal injuries, the speed and smooth journey offered by the air ambulance can make a real difference to the patient’s long-term prognosis.

“Ultimately though, these figures show that anybody can need the help of the Cornwall Air Ambulance at any time. Whether it’s a medical or trauma emergency, what matters is that the patient can get the best treatment in the fastest time possible.”

The Cornwall Air Ambulance is crewed by dedicated paramedics from the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. The helicopter operations are funded by charitable donations and around £2.5 million must be raised every year to keep this service in the sky.

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