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About the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance

The Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance (branded “Air Ambulance Berks | Oxon | Bucks”) is based at RAF Benson near Wallingford in Oxfordshire. It operates 365 days a year during daylight hours, over an area stretching from North Hampshire just into Northamptonshire taking in the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. All of this area is within 15 minutes flying time (see map). The Air Ambulance serves a number of hospitals in the area, including Wexham Park (Slough), John Radcliffe (Oxford), Stoke Mandeville (near Aylesbury), Royal Berkshire (Reading), Great Western (Swindon), North Hampshire (Basingstoke) and Northampton General as well as Kettering, Milton Keynes and other specialist hospitals as necessary.

The air ambulance is crewed by a pilot and two paramedics (or sometimes a doctor and a paramedic*) and can transport two patients or a patient and an accompanying relative or guardian to one of a number of hospitals in the area with landing facilities on site or nearby. A full range of medical equipment is carried, including stretchers, splints, oxygen, saline drip, defibrillator and a maternity kit.

The helicopter is tasked by the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust and undertakes over 1,000 missions per year - an average of around three per day. The most common reasons are road traffic accidents, followed by equestrian and sporting accidents, then other medical emergencies. It can land ahead of an accident without being held up by the traffic, and can get to remote locations such as on the downs or on golf courses that cannot be reached by road ambulances.

Above all, the air ambulance is fast and can reach the patient quickly. The paramedics can render first aid, stabilise the patient and air-lift him or her to hospital within the first hour. This is known as the “Golden Hour” because the patient stands a much greater chance of recovery if treatment can be rendered within this time.

The Air Ambulance is funded bay a Trust which relies entirely on donations from, and fundraising activities organised by companies, organisations and individuals, including its own volunteers. The paramedics are provided by the NHS (although they usually work on the helicopter on their days off) but there is no other funding from the government or the National Lottery. Please visit the official web site for more information.

* From 1st October 2012 the air ambulance will carry a doctor experienced in pre-hospital emergency medecine.

Last updated 1st October, 2012

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