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Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance's Helimed 79 marks a year in operation


By Jonathan Clark

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SCOTLAND'S Charity Air Ambulance's Helimed 79 marked one year in operation on Saturday.

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Pictured from left, Chriss Doyle (paramedic), Captain Jon Stupart (pilot), Laura McAllister (paramedic), Ewan Littlejohn (lead paramedic), Rich Forte (paramedic), Captain Pete Winn (pilot) and Owen McLauchlan (paramedic). Picture: Graeme Hart.
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Pictured from left, Chriss Doyle (paramedic), Captain Jon Stupart (pilot), Laura McAllister (paramedic), Ewan Littlejohn (lead paramedic), Rich Forte (paramedic), Captain Pete Winn (pilot) and Owen McLauchlan (paramedic). Picture: Graeme Hart.

Based at Aberdeen International Airport, the emergency response helicopter flew nearly 25,000 miles during its first year.

The crew responded to 187 emergencies across the north and north-east, flying 97 patients to life-saving hospital care.

Launched at the start of lockdown, the team at Helimed 79 (H79) spent its first year operating under Covid-19 restrictions.

"It has been challenging," lead paramedic Ewan Littlejohn said. "But we are really proud of what SCAA has achieved here in the north-east.

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Pilot Captain Pete Winn and lead paramedic Ewan Littlejohn perform ground checks as Helimed 79 powers up at Aberdeen Airport. Picture: Graeme Hart
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Pilot Captain Pete Winn and lead paramedic Ewan Littlejohn perform ground checks as Helimed 79 powers up at Aberdeen Airport. Picture: Graeme Hart

"We are now a recognised and well-respected part of the country's emergency response network.

"Our year in relative isolation allowed us to learn and grow and to support each other as a team and I'm immensely proud of everyone – including our supporters who helped us through our first year."

During its first year, H79 responded to a wide variety of emergencies across Scotland.

Around 65 per cent of call outs were to the Grampian region, with 17 per cent to the Highlands and a further 14 per cent to Orkney.

In the first year, H79 proved a lifeline for remote communities – airlifting 35 patients from outlying areas to hospital for care and in some cases back home post-care.

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Helimed-79 lifts from Aberdeen Airport en-route to Orkney Picture: Graeme Hart
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Helimed-79 lifts from Aberdeen Airport en-route to Orkney Picture: Graeme Hart
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Helimed-79 coming into land at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with a patient from Orkney Picture: Graeme Hart
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance Base, Aberdeen (SCAA) home to Helimed 79 Helimed-79 coming into land at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with a patient from Orkney Picture: Graeme Hart

The majority of call outs (105 of 187) involved serious trauma. Of those, 48 were road traffic collisions and 25 were serious falls.

A further 31 of the crew's call outs were to cardiac related emergencies – another situation where time is of vital importance.

SCAA's busiest month was August, with the busiest day of the week a Sunday and the busiest call out time between noon and 2pm.

SCAA chief executive David Craig reflected on a busy first year for H79.

He said: "The demand for our service has been there since day one when it was deployed to a 999 call within hours of launching.

"Since then it has benefitted a huge number of patients and their families.

"I think the crew members have been remarkable. Most of them came fresh to the air ambulance service and have had to learn new skills, study and qualify for their role, set up a new air ambulance base and then launch to emergencies during a very difficult year for everyone.

"They have each shown just how professional they are and their first year has been testament to their outstanding expertise and capabilities.

"Air ambulances make a huge difference to response times and outcomes. The demands on H79 are sure to grow even further as we emerge from lockdown."

SCAA relies entirely on public donations to fund this vital Scottish life-saving service service. To find out how you can support their work, visit www.scaa.org.uk.


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