Lions learn more about vital service

Morpeth Lions President Geoff Bushell, left, and Social Services Chair, Ian Brown, right, present a cheque to Robert Colgrave from GNAA.
Morpeth Lions President Geoff Bushell, left, and Social Services Chair, Ian Brown, right, present a cheque to Robert Colgrave from GNAA.

Morpeth Lions Club

AT a recent meeting, members were visited by Robert Colgrave from the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAA), who gave a talk on the history and operation of the service.

Plans to set up the GNAA started in 1991 and it took four years to raise the necessary funds for a service. However, the donations were barely enough to keep the ambulance flying.

In 2001, Graham Pickering was appointed to head the charity and fund-raising began in earnest. In those days, the North East Air Ambulance helped out but by 2004, GNAA had reached its target of three aircraft.

In 2010, these were replaced by three new aircraft.

GNAA needs £4million a year to keep this level of service running and this is all raised from donations.

It is based at Tees Valley Airport. Usually, there is one aircraft operating in the North East, one in Cumbria and one being serviced.

An aircraft will be called out on average three times a day, although they are busier in the summer. The aim is to take off within five minutes of a call.

Each one is manned by a pilot, a doctor and a paramedic. There are nine paramedics attached to GNAA and they also have to be able to navigate. A team of about 18 doctors work with the service.

Once an aircraft returns from a call, it is immediately refuelled and any used equipment is replaced.

GNAA also has a car ambulance, which it may deploy in certain circumstances, including when it is foggy. At present, the air ambulance operates only in daylight hours for safety reasons, but with the help of improved technology, it is hoped to operate the service 24 hours a day.

Mr Colgrave showed a video, which included interviews with some of those rescued by the air ambulance. He also outlined the various ways GNAA raises funds.

Following the presentation, Morpeth Lions President Geoff Bushell thanked him for such an interesting talk and handed over a cheque for £150 from the club.