2021 was another busy and challenging year for the crew of Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC). In fact, it was the second busiest year on record with a total of 1,964 call-outs. This means the crew responded to more than five incidents a day whilst continuing to deal with COVID-19 restrictions and PPE gear on top of their flight suits.
As usual, the crew stood ready to respond to patients in urgent need across Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES), North Somerset, Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire and parts of Wiltshire. But there was a noticeable increase in call-outs to children and teenagers — in 2021 14% of our total tasked incidents were to children and teenagers, compared to 7% in 2020 and 2019.
We are privileged to have a highly-skilled team that includes Critical Care Doctor and paediatric specialist, Dr James Tooley, and Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care, James Yates. James Yates was recognised in the 2021 Air Ambulance UK Awards of Excellence when he was highly commended for the category of Critical Care Practitioner of the Year, and for bringing neonatal expertise into the capabilities of the GWAAC Critical Care Team.
The combined skills of our Critical Care Doctors, Advanced Practitioners and Specialist Paramedics means we can bring the expertise of a hospital emergency department to the scene of a critically ill or injured patient. These skills can make the difference between life and death. From giving roadside blood transfusions, to performing emergency surgery on a driveway, the crew is specially trained in pre-hospital emergency care for both children and adults.
55% of our total call-outs in 2021 were trauma-related, and 45% were medical-related. Of the medical-related incidents, life-threatening cardiac arrests continued to be the most common incident to which the crew was tasked. It may surprise you to know, the crew responded to over 500 patients experiencing this medical emergency in 2021.
It may also surprise you to know that we respond to more patients by critical care car (CCC) than we do by Helimed 65, our helicopter.
On receiving a call, the crew makes a decision whether to fly or drive based on various factors. These might include the location of the patient, weather and road conditions, time of day, accessibility, and the specific needs of the patient (if known).
There is more room inside a land ambulance than aboard Helimed 65 so sometimes a decision is made at the scene to transport the patient to a hospital via land ambulance. Our crew will often travel in the land ambulance with the patient if specific care is required on-route.
Our three well-equipped GWAAC-branded CCC’s responded to 68% of incidents in 2021 — that’s more than two-thirds of our total call-outs. And over half of our CCC missions were to incidents in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
April was the busiest month of the year and in the week of 12-18th April 2021, the crew was dispatched to 52 incidents, making this our busiest week on record. The average number of daily call-outs increased to more than seven during this particular week.
The fairly even split between trauma and medical-related incidents also changed during this April week; trauma-related incidents rose to over 77%.
In 2021, GWAAC was called to Bristol almost eleven times a week on average to help someone in urgent need — that’s 556 people across the year.
Gloucestershire was the next busiest county. In fact, it was a record year for responding to incidents in Gloucestershire; the crew were tasked to 539 incidents in 2021, up from 460 in 2020. Call-outs to Gloucestershire made up 27% of GWAAC’s total missions.
And because GWAAC’s base is in South Gloucestershire, our crew was perfectly placed to help almost 1,400 people who needed our service in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and Gloucestershire.
But let’s not forget, Helimed 65 can reach people across the whole region including B&NES and North Somerset within twenty minutes. 'We were tasked to 111 incidents in B&NES and 251 incidents in North Somerset in 2021.
As we reflect on 2021, it seems an appropriate time to send our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported GWAAC. Your kind donations and fundraising efforts mean we can continue to equip our crew and vehicles with the tools and training they need to save lives in our community.
“Having experienced our second busiest year on record and seeing the dramatic rise in call-outs to children, it’s more important than ever that we can provide a lifesaving service to our local community. If you’re wondering how you can make a difference, you can in so many ways. Donate a gift of your time or money to GWAAC today.”Anna Perry, CEO, Great Western Air Ambulance Charity.
Having experienced our second busiest year on record and seeing the dramatic rise in call-outs to children, it’s more important than ever that we can provide a lifesaving service to our local community. If you’re wondering how you can make a difference, you can in so many ways. Donate a gift of your time or money to GWAAC today