THE life-saving air ambulance over Norfolk and Suffolk will be flying with a fully qualified doctor every day of the week from Monday as the East Anglian Air Ambulance rolls out its new scheme of manning the helicopter.
Previously, doctors with life-saving skills joined the helicopter teams as volunteers but now they are being paid to get on board on a more permanent basis.
Among them is Jeremy Mauger, consultant anaesthetist at West Suffolk Hospital, who has been flying with emergency helicopters for many years.
The addition of a qualified doctor to the crews means that when they get to an accident victim as well as clearing airways and administering fluids they can also administer higher or extra doses of pain relief than paramedics.
Dr Mauger is clinical lead for both Anglia One, stationed at Norwich Airport, and Anglia Two, which is moving to Cambridge airport.
The change has been made as the charity found it was difficult to guarantee a doctor on board the aircraft each day because of the voluntary nature of the scheme.
The charity will pay the NHS £600,000 a year for the doctors. Some of this cost will be offset by savings of £130,000 a year with the move of Anglia Two from RAF Wyton to Cambridge,
The charity is now part of the London HEMS group - helicopter emergency medical service - which belongs to EMSC, a company which works with emergency air services in London, the South East and now parts of East Anglia. This group ensures appropriate medical insurance and training for dotors in the scheme.
Dr Mauger, who flew with the London helicopter ambulance and when he moved to Suffolk he joined the East Anglian Air Ambulance, said; “What we are doing is the same as the rest of the aircraft operating in the south east. Every patient flies under the responsibility of a medical consultant and for that you need appropriate legal risk insurance and training. Being part of HEMS means we have joined-up thinking but there is also flexibility as we are all using the same system and guaranteeing doctors on board the helicopters.”
The charity is hoping to eventually provide 24-hour cover as well as extending its service to critical care transfers between hospitals. It will be opening a fund-raising office in Bury St Edmunds shortly.
To find out more, visit www.eaaa.org.uk