AddThis SmartLayers

Free Press prompts Govt policy review

The Bucks Free Press has helped to prompt a fresh Government review into the use of air ambulances after the paper revealed that the NHS does not fund the service.

In November, the paper revealed air ambulance charities – which air-lift people to hospital – had to pay the salaries of NHS paramedics working aboard.

The Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance service, which operated in the Free Press circulation area, is now being looked at by the Department of Health.

Local MP Paul Goodman took up the topic and sent a Free Press article to Under Secretary of State, Hazel Blears.

She wrote back to say: “In recognition of the growing public interest in this subject, I have asked my officials to commission further research into the contribution made by air ambulances in the care and transportation of seriously ill patients.”

Five air ambulance services are also going to share a £2.2m funding boost.

She said: “This money will make sure that via local ambulance trusts, air ambulance charities who are not yet in a position to meet their full running costs are supported until they have funding from other public and corporate sources.”

Now health chiefs have also agreed to pay £150,000 needed to pay the paramedics’ salaries in every air ambulance in England.

Editor Steve Cohen said: “It is refreshing to learn this newspaper and its readers have helped toinfluence Government ministers over the future of life-saving air ambulances.

“The Government has changed its mind and will fund the salary cost of NHS staff on air ambulances.

“The Free Press probably cannot claim the credit for that but we’re delighted by it. We’re also pleased by Ms Blears’ statement that she is commissioning further research into the subject ‘in recognition of the growing public interest in this subject’.

“We certainly like to think that this newspaper played its part in that decision, and hope it proves to the public that the media can get things done.”

Sally Gunston, spokesman for Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance, said: “The support of the paper has been absolutely crucial. Without you guys no-one would even know of us.”

  • The Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance service has flown more than 1,800 rescue missions since it was formed in 1999 but still relies on charitable donations.

    Back to the campaigns index

    Do you have a story about the regional press? Ring 0116 227 3122/3121, or
    e-mail pastill@nep.co.uk