A Heartfelt Thank You: 25 Years and Over 33,500 Missions!
Thanks to you, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) is celebrating a remarkable 25-year journey made possible by the unwavering support of people and businesses across Essex, Hertfordshire and surrounding areas. We can’t thank you enough for contributing to our mission of saving lives and providing critical care when it matters most.
Making a Difference Together
Throughout our quarter-century of service, we have witnessed the power of collective compassion, dedication and generosity. We want to thank each and every one of you, along with our amazing team, including doctors, paramedics, pilots, fundraisers and volunteers who have been a part of the EHAAT family. Behind the scenes, our wider charity team tirelessly works to maintain smooth operations across clinical, aircraft operations, fundraising, retail, communications, finance, and so many other areas. Yet our journey of impact would not be possible without our amazing supporters. Your generous donations, creative fundraising efforts, and words of encouragement fuel our mission and enable us to keep your local life-saving service operational.
Strength in Unity: How Community Fuels Our Journey
In light of this celebration, we feel it’s a fitting moment to take a trip down memory lane and reflect on the historic milestones we’ve achieved, as well as our impact on communities across Essex, Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas.
The profound impact of our founder, Brian Shipley, and the dedicated team of paramedics who worked tirelessly alongside him laid the foundation for EHAAT to become the local life-saving charity we are today. In 1997, after the best part of a year of fundraising and hard work, Essex Air Ambulance was established, with a Bölkow 105 DB helicopter carrying one pilot and two paramedics on board. We began operating from Boreham Airfield whilst our first flight was out of New Hall School in 1998. The seeds of our life-saving charity were sown, however, our first significant milestone was just around the corner.
In 1999 we began flying seven days a week during daylight hours and launched our Motorcycle Run fundraising event, which is still thriving today. The extension of our operating hours reflected the growing need for pre-hospital care in the region as we strived to be there for patients and their families when they needed us most.
Growing Public Support
Thanks to the incredible dedication and generosity of our supporters, EHAAT experienced a significant boost in fundraising efforts. This wave of support facilitated a monumental leap forward in 2003 – upgrading our helicopter to the Eurocopter EC135 T2. This technological advancement equipped our air ambulance service with enhanced capabilities, ensuring we could provide even more efficient and effective critical care. We also opened our first charity shop in West Mersea, an idea proposed by one of our valued volunteers. The shop has proven to be incredibly successful, raising an impressive sum of over £927,000 to support our life-saving mission.
In 2007 the charity took responsibility for serving Hertfordshire as well as Essex and became the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust (EHAAT). The Herts Air Ambulance service, based at North Weald, became operational in 1998 with an MD902 Explorer taking to the skies.
We maintained two distinct brand identities – red for Herts Air Ambulance and yellow for Essex Air Ambulance. Concurrently, we introduced pre-hospital care doctors to work alongside our critical care paramedics and pilots, whilst rapid response vehicles (RRVs) were added to our fleet, further enhancing our pre-hospital care capabilities.
As part of our growth, we relocated our Essex operational base from Boreham to Earls Colne, where we proudly opened our first visitor centre – made possible thanks to a significant grant from ICAP. The visitor centre quickly became a hub for volunteers who generously hosted tours, allowing the community exciting opportunities to learn more about our life-saving work. In 2011, we voluntarily registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to ensure the highest quality pre-hospital critical care delivered to patients.
100,000 Lottery Players and Counting
By 2014, our Flight for Life Lottery achieved a remarkable milestone with 100,000 weekly playing members. This extraordinary level of support demonstrated the immense popularity of the lottery and highlighted the incredible dedication of the communities we serve. As a major source of income, the lottery continues to play a pivotal role in raising millions of pounds for our charity, empowering us to expand our operations and further our life-saving mission.
Continuing our trajectory of progress, 2015 marked a significant moment as our charity’s headquarters found a new home. The new premises at Earls Colne Business Park provided us with a solid foundation to streamline our operations and optimise our fundraising efforts while advancing critical care. We also expanded our retail operation by opening a number of charity shops to strengthen our ties with local communities and foster deeper connections with the people we serve.
In 2016, we entered a new era of patient care by introducing co-pilots to our highly-skilled crew. This transformative change allowed us to free up capacity for the critical care team and advance safety. With a dedicated co-pilot sitting alongside the chief pilot, they were ready to handle navigation and airspace. Previously, the critical care paramedic was responsible for pre-flight checks and navigation duties, however, they could now concentrate entirely on the patient and discuss drugs, equipment and procedures with the pre-hospital care doctor. With an unprecedented level of collaboration and synergy, doctors and paramedics could devote their undivided attention to delivering life-saving interventions and critical care.
Building on the remarkable advancements in patient care, our commitment to continuous improvement extended to many other areas of our charity. Inspired by the positive impact of our visitor centre at Earls Colne, we recognised the value it brought in fostering community engagement and support. As a result, we were able to also open our North Weald airbase to regular visitors.
Unifying Essex & Hertfordshire
As part of our 20th-anniversary celebrations, EHAAT combined both services into one unified identity: Essex & Herts Air Ambulance. The charity’s new state-of-the-art AW169 aircraft was unveiled at Audley End House and Gardens, adorned with a new red and yellow visual identity developed from the existing rotor blade graphic – unifying the two counties, into one coherent brand.
The AW169 was the first helicopter to be purchased rather than leased. The investment reflected a huge step in securing the charity’s future, and the aircraft went into operation in August 2017. Based at our North Weald airbase, it features advanced navigation systems, the latest medical equipment and increased fuel capacity – enabling the team to reach patients faster.
Unprecedented Challenges, Enhanced Care
To continue delivering innovative care to the patient’s side, EHAAT introduced blood on board in 2019. On average, our critical care team treat approximately 70 patients in desperate need of a blood transfusion at the scene of an incident every year. By carrying bags of O-negative red blood cells and blood plasma in the helicopters and rapid response vehicles (RRVs), our crews were equipped to provide extra care to patients suffering significant blood loss.
The packed red blood cells are supplied daily from The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow and delivered to EHAAT’s airbases at Earls Colne and North Weald by Essex Voluntary Blood Service (EVBS) riders. The blood is replaced daily and replenished as required. Any unused blood is returned to The Princess Alexandra Hospital for use elsewhere, ensuring every drop of this precious commodity is used.
Expanding the equipment, fleet and infrastructure remains a top priority for the charity. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, EHAAT’s new purpose-built North Weald airbase became operational on the 28th April 2021 when the critical care team were dispatched to their first mission from the new airbase.
The state-of-the-art facilities have been instrumental in supporting our critical care team’s training and enhancing their readiness. Our Simulation Suite provides realistic scenario-based training. With advanced features such as high-tech visual projections, sounds, and tailored temperature control, our team can engage in ultra-realistic training scenarios. This capability enables them to debrief and critique missions, practice advanced procedures, enhance their confidence, improve knowledge, foster effective team communication, and elevate performance all of which ensures the very best clinical care for our patients.
Having the Hertfordshire fundraising team located at the airbase has allowed them to work more closely with their clinical colleagues and gain a deeper understanding of the life-saving interventions performed by our clinical staff.
In line with the charity’s strong green credentials, the North Weald airbase was designed with sustainability at the forefront. Electric vehicle charging points encourage greater use of electric vehicles, and the photovoltaic panels on the roof can generate more electricity than the building uses, with the excess sold to the national grid.
The Earls Colne airbase has been given many refurbishment upgrades to improve energy efficiency and sustainability, such as the extension of its hangar, the addition of an electric heating system and newly installed solar panels. The cutting-edge airbase at North Weald and the improvements made at Earls Colne reflect our commitment to providing advanced, life-saving care while minimising our impact on the environment.
In 2022, EHAAT received a rating of outstanding overall from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), in addition to outstanding ratings for all five key areas: safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs and well-led. This is a significant achievement for the charity, demonstrating the high quality of care provided to patients and local communities across Essex and Hertfordshire.
The prestigious Air Ambulance UK’s Awards of Excellence returned to an in-person conference in November 2022, and EHAAT was crowned winner of the ‘Innovation of the Year Award’ for implementing strategies to maximise patient chances of survival and recovery. Creating a Critical Clinical Case (CCC) Passport – a case-specific tool to help aid clinicians – exemplified our forward-thinking approach. The CCC Passport has become a mainstay of training. It helps ensure EHAAT’s clinicians remain competent in challenging critical interventions such as open chest surgeries, caesarean sections and dealing with complex anaesthetic cases in children.
As we celebrate these achievements, we continue shaping exciting plans to improve patient experience and outcomes. We recently outlined the vision for our Centre for Excellence, which will create a world-leading community through which pre-hospital care is developed to achieve the best possible outcomes for all patients. There are four pillars to the Centre for Excellence; Research and Scholarship, Innovation, Education and Training, and Community. These pillars will support the three clinical domains of cardiac arrest, head injury and patient experience and outcomes whilst encouraging a collaborative approach to exploring the complicated and unique challenges that exist in pre-hospital care.
Leading with Dedication
As we kickstart our quarter-century anniversary this summer, we also recognise our inspirational CEO, Jane Gurney, who has been leading the charity for 20 years! Jane has been a driving force behind the charity’s accomplishments, steering EHAAT through turbulent times by embracing agility, creativity and collaboration in the face of every new challenge. She is also one of the longest-serving CEOs of a UK air ambulance, and while her responsibilities at EHAAT are wide-ranging and demanding, she is quick to praise the ‘huge’ role played by every member of the EHAAT family.
“From clinical delivery to aviation, every area has its own expectations and challenges. Our dedicated fundraising team focuses on raising the millions of pounds we need to operate the service. We must be financially robust, adhere to all relevant regulations, and continue attracting and inspiring amazing people to join us. Every strategic objective we’ve achieved has been made possible by the hard work, talent and passion of our people. Every individual pushes us forward, from our trustees to the executive team, crew, supporters, patients, and the entire charity team. Together, we work tirelessly to build resilience, secure the future of our operation and achieve clinical excellence so our patients receive the very best pre-hospital care.”
Every step of the way, there have been moments of immense pride. On 1st March 2022, we hosted a visit by Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex at our North Weald airbase. The event was not only a momentous occasion for Jane and her team, but also a chance to bring together hospitals, emergency services, and supporting organisations across the region, enabling The Earl and Countess to say thank you for their outstanding hard work during the pandemic.
Jane’s unwavering commitment to driving the charity forward, expanding and enhancing pre-hospital care, earned her an honorary degree from the University of Essex in July 2022. Jane is now part of an inspiring list of over 300 people honoured by the university for their contribution to the local community since 1967.
“It is a real privilege to have led Essex & Herts Air Ambulance through so many milestones over the years, and to work alongside our incredible supporters, staff, volunteers and critical care teams. I work with true experts in their fields, and I trust and value their knowledge and ideas; they inspire me to continually explore ways we can have the courage to innovate and improve patient outcomes. However, it goes without saying that our patients and their families are the ones who inspire me and my team the most to continue delivering our life-saving service today and into the future.”
Embarking on the Next Chapter Together
As a charity without access to National Lottery funding and with limited support from Government, we depend on the generosity and goodwill of the people and businesses of Essex and Hertfordshire to remain operational and keep saving lives. Each mission costs around £2,200, and it costs in excess of £750,000 every month to keep the service operational and cover all charitable costs. We couldn’t have achieved this quarter-century milestone without the unwavering dedication of our local communities. From donating and fundraising to volunteering and shopping at our charity shops, you continue to help make a positive impact in your community.
Thank you for being a part of our journey and for your continued support. Together, we will continue to advance pre-hospital care, build stronger communities, and create a brighter future for all.