Cornwall Air Ambulance flies 670 missions with two MD902s in 2017

Cornwall Air Ambulance flies 670 missions with two MD902s in 2017

16-Jan-2018 Source: Cornwall Air Ambulance

The crew of Cornwall Air Ambulance embarked upon 869 missions during 2017, providing lifesaving medical care throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The charity’s annual mission total is the highest in more than five years, thanks in part to an extension in operating hours which now sees the crew responding to emergencies until 2am, four days a week. You can read more about the extended hours of service at

A total of 670 missions were flown in the air ambulance MD902 helicopters and 199 were carried out in the charity’s critical care cars. These missions involved treating 742 sick or injured patients, which is enough people to fill more than 10 double-decker buses*. A total of 346 of these patients were airlifted to hospital in one of the charity’s helicopters.

Where once the air ambulance was primarily a tool to fly patients to hospital as quickly as possible, the crew’s advanced critical care skills and equipment mean they can now provide much of the lifesaving care of a hospital emergency department on scene, for example at the roadside or clifftop. On 272 occasions, patients were treated by the Cornwall Air Ambulance crew before being taken to hospital by South West Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust land ambulance.

Throughout 2017, the air ambulance crew responded to 461 emergencies involving medical conditions and 397 people suffering serious injuries. Just over one in three missions were to people suffering heart problems. The crew also flew 11 inter-hospital transfers to ensure seriously ill patients could get the treatment they needed.

A total of 499 residents of Cornwall were treated by the air ambulance crew, with 125 visitors to the county also receiving care**. All missions carried out in 2017 were funded through donations from the people of Cornwall and beyond.

Cornwall Air Ambulance missions throughout 2017 included:

  • 346 patients airlifted to hospital
  • 316 heart-related emergencies
  • 130 road traffic accidents (including 31 motorcycle accidents)
  • 121 serious falls
  • 112 babies, children and teenagers treated
  • 60 missions to sick and injured people on the coast
  • 48 sporting injuries
  • 16 horse riding injuries
  • 12 cycling injuries
  • 11 emergencies in the water (including surfers and swimmers)

Areas with the most number of missions in 2017 included:

  • Isles of Scilly: 41
  • Bodmin: 38
  • Newquay: 35
  • St Austell: 19
  • Penzance: 17
  • Redruth: 17
  • Truro: 14
  • Falmouth: 12
  • Bude: 12
  • Helston 7

Paula Martin, Chief Executive of Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, said: “Behind many of these annual mission statistics are families who are starting a new year together rather than grieving a devastating loss. For many of our patients and their families, the sound of the air ambulance helicopter arriving is the sound of hope. The Cornwall Air Ambulance team is committed to working closely with our ambulance service which tasks the helicopter to each incident.’’

“Many families in Cornwall have a connection to this charity because a friend, family member or colleague has been airlifted. It truly is a service that belongs to Cornwall and I would encourage people to give their support, set up a regular donation, adopt us as their charity of the year or hold a fundraising event to help the paramedics to save more lives in the future.”

Air Operations Officer Steve Garvey, who leads the team of critical care paramedics onboard Cornwall Air Ambulance, said: “Not one of those 869 missions could have been flown without donations from the people of Cornwall and beyond. Everyone who supports this charity should feel very proud of the fact they helped save a lot of people’s lives in 2017 and I truly hope they’ll continue to do so in 2018.”

*Based on the capacity of the New Routemaster double-decker bus which carries up to 80 passengers seated and standing.

**It is not known where the remaining patients were from.

Case study

In June 2017, 70 year old retired tin miner Len Mitchell suffered a severe stroke and needed Cornwall Air Ambulance to take him to hospital for emergency brain surgery.

Originally from St Austell, Len worked at Wheal Jane mine for many years before moving to the Truro area with his wife Maureen.

On the morning of 24 June, Len’s wife Maureen went to work as normal, while Len stayed at home. Around 11am she received a call from Len saying he was feeling very ill. She knew from his voice that something was very wrong, so she rushed home. Maureen found Len collapsed on the floor.

Maureen said ‘’It was terrifying. I dialled 999 and a land ambulance arrived to help Len. They said it was likely a stroke and he should be taken to Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.’’

On arrival, Len had a brain scan which revealed he had a large bleed on his brain, and would need emergency brain surgery.

Maureen said ‘’The doctors decided Len needed to have the surgery at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, and the best chance he had was if he was airlifted. If he was taken by road it would have taken over an hour and the chances were that he wouldn’t survive.’’

Within minutes, the crew of Cornwall Air Ambulance arrived and flew Len to Derriford Hospital. He was taken straight into surgery on arrival.

After a 7 hour operation to relieve the pressure and fluid on his brain, Len was taken to the Intensive Care Unit where he remained for four days before being moved to a specialist stroke unit.

Len has been left with disabilities limiting his movement and Maureen is working hard along with a care team to look after Len, now in the comfort of their home.

Maureen said ‘’On 8 September we celebrated Len’s 70th birthday. Thanks to the crew of Cornwall Air Ambulance he is still with us and we had a wonderful Christmas with him. I can’t thank them enough for what they have done. They’ve given me my husband back.’’
‘’We don’t know how long we have left with him, but they have given us those precious moments we wouldn’t have had. They are truly amazing and everyone should support this incredible charity.’’

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