Lives are at risk as Wiltshire’s only air ambulance is offline for the second time in two months, meaning critically ill casualties are less likely to be flown to specialist hospitals.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA) has been unable to attend emergencies in the area since last week, with air ambulances from across England are covering the county wherever possible.
Most of the UK’s air ambulances have access to a pool helicopter which can be used to keep medics responding by air. Wiltshire’s doesn’t; they rely on two rapid response vehicles instead meaning they are unable to fly patients to regional major trauma units for life-saving treatment.
The helicopter was offline for ‘scheduled maintenance’ for two weeks at the beginning of April but is on the ground again now for a 50-hour check and more ‘scheduled maintenance’.
but has been regularly unavailable for large periods of time over the past few years.
As first reported by Wiltshire 999s in 2018, the Bell 429 helicopter span out of control at high speed on the helipad at the charity’s then-new airbase on 15 June. The findings of an Air Accidents Investigation Branch investigation was published last month.
Great Western Air Ambulance and Thames Valley Air Ambulance have been attending various calls, including a cardiac arrest in Chippenham yesterday – just seven miles (as the crow flies) from the WAA airbase in Semington near Melksham.
A WAA charity spokesperson confirmed: “Our helicopter is currently undergoing its 50-hour check and requires some scheduled maintenance.
“The helicopter is due to return to our airbase tomorrow (2 June 2020).
“In the meantime we continue to attend incidents in our Rapid Response Vehicles, while being supported by our neighbouring air ambulances in the same way that we support them.”
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