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Air Ambulance 24/7 plans are still a reality despite challenging year

EAST Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) has revealed that despite a challenging year, and forecasted losses of £1.7m this year, plans to start flying 24/7 from its new Norwich headquarters are still on track for 2021.

This week, the charity’s Chief Executive Patrick Peal visited the site of EAAA’s new 24/7 base at Norwich Airport to mark the end of exterior building works, which have been delayed by 16 weeks due to the pandemic.

The £7 million base project was started in January of this year and was originally planned to be finished by the end of 2020. The new base is a key development in enabling the charity to start flying 24/7, from a state of the art purpose-built facility, with improved rest and welfare facilities for the crew.

The funds for the base were ringfenced from years of generous gifts in Wills and committed before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Air Ambulance 24/7 plans are still a reality despite challenging year
EAAA’s 24/7 base is starting to take shape at Hangar E, Gambling Close, Norwich Airport. Photograph credit: East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Patrick Peal said:

“Developing our Norwich base so that it’s fit for the future and a 24/7 helicopter operation has been a long-term goal of the charity. It is a testament to the team and our supporters that, despite all the challenges of 2020 so far, we have managed to keep this huge project more or less on track. Our goal to become the first helicopter emergency medical service in the East of England to fly 24/7 is just a few months away.

“All of this is only possible thanks to the incredible community who support us and have continued to support us throughout the challenges of COVID-19. Thanks to the phenomenal response to our PPE appeal in April, we have been able to equip our crews with everything they need to do their jobs, have only missed one shift to date due to COVID-19, and managed to meet our financial target for ‘19/20.”

In the financial year July 2019 to June 2020, EAAA exceeded its fundraising target and finished its financial year with a surplus of £1.1million. The additional income was due to a one-off government grant, its PPE appeal for unbudgeted equipment and an incredible response from its supporters since March when the first lockdown was implemented, and charity donations were at risk of declining.

However, for the current financial year, the charity is predicting a £1.7million shortfall as its fundraising income is hit by the effects of the pandemic.

Air Ambulance 24/7 plans are still a reality despite challenging year
EAAA’s 247 base progress. Photograph credit: P J Spillings.

Patrick Peal added:

“In March, we were facing a lot of hurdles and were concerned about the impact that the pandemic would have on our income, but our supporters rose to the challenge, responding to some new and innovative ways to fundraise. This surplus enabled us to maintain our reserves, which unfortunately we expect to draw on to overcome the predicted shortfall in the current financial year, even before the impact that the second lockdown will undoubtedly have.

“It is a hugely challenging time for our charity so we thank our supporters and urge them to continue to help in any way that they can, so we can continue to respond to an emergency when someone needs our help.”

EAAA is currently also on standby to support the region’s hospitals with critical care transfers during the second lockdown. As of 02 November, the service has only missed one clinical shift due to COVID-19 related-issues.

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