From social responsibility to medical innovation

Behind our charity is a vision of social and medical innovation derived from a strong sense of responsibility for the patient.

Before London’s Air Ambulance, seriously injured patients were dying unnecessarily because of the delay in receiving prompt and appropriate medical care.

The doctor on board model for air ambulances, which we pioneered, aims for effective delivery of time critical interventions when the patient needs them rather than when the healthcare system can comfortably provide them.

London's Air Ambulance was established in 1989 in response to a report by The Royal College of Surgeons, which documented unnecessary deaths from trauma and criticised  the care that seriously injured patients received in the UK.

Gareth Davies, Medical Director of London’s Air Ambulance with over 20-years experience in air ambulance industry, remembers the single moment when he recognised the need for a doctor-led helicopter emergency medical service. A motorcyclist in one of the TT races, he was watching in the Isle of Man, had crashed into a bridge and was critically injured. The helicopter landed near the crash site and the doctor immediately began delivering life-saving medical care. 

"The irony was the general public wouldn't get that service, it was only the riders at the race.  It seemed obvious to me that the public deserved the same standard of care if they crashed a bike or fell off a roof.“
Gareth Davies, Medical Director
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25 yr old Emma McEachan was on her Kawasaki motorbike heading to Kent with a friend for their traditional Sunday roast in a country pub.  The route taken was one that Emma had travelled many times before and she slowed to only 25mph before leaning into the bend. In a freak accident her motorcycle slipped on the damp tarmac and both Emma and her motorcycle slid into the path of an oncoming Ford Fiesta. Read more about Emma’s story.

The conventional wisdom widely accepted among the medical community in the UK at the time was that serious trauma can be dealt with efficiently only in the hospital. The concept of “the golden hour” was recognised but the confidence in pre-hospital diagnosis and treatment was missing. The operational costs of the helicopter played a role too. 

We delivered innovative life-saving procedures outside the hospital and made them applicable to a broad range of emergency providers. Yet in some of the hospital corridors, our doctors were pejoratively referred to as “orange cowboys”. The nickname implies how little the system of advanced pre-hospital care and motivations behind the use of helicopter were understood. Life saving procedures as well as relief of pain and psychological distress were a core part of the package our teams are trained to deliver to the patient. With London's Air Ambulance came life-saving surgery, anaesthesia, morphine and calm reassuring professionalism. 

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