The Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) are facing increased daily running costs as it works to further improve its service and save more lives.
The charity, which up until now has needed £7200 every day to keep its two helicopters running, now needs to raise a further £2,790 each day, taking the new daily running cost to £9990 – equivalent to £3.6million each year.
The rise in operational costs comes as the charity, which receives no direct government funding, strives to implement further service improvements which would directly benefit the people of Yorkshire.
Peter Sunderland, Chairman of the YAA explains: “For the last five to six years we have been able to fix our daily running costs at £7200 each day, or the equivalent of £2.6million every year. However, we have not been immune to the challenging economic environment over the last few years and as a result, are seeing a major impact on our running costs. We have to pay utility bills like everyone else, and we’ve all seen an increase in those costs over the years. But mainly, we are seeing increasing operational costs – primarily fuel, premises, maintenance and other on-costs associated with operating two very large helicopters.”
Each year, both of our aircrafts have to undergo mandatory servicing in line with regulations – similar to our car going in for its service & MOT. However our helicopters are each grounded for 4 to 6 weeks as a result of this. Given the vast topography and area of Yorkshire, we cannot operate with just one helicopter for that length of time, so we have to budget to hire in a relief aircraft during these periods.
Last year the YAA attended a total of 933 incidents, and in turn transported 431 patients directly to hospital for treatment – up from 376 patients the previous year.
Peter continues “We also have to plan for the future. At some point the replacement of our oldest helicopter, G-SASH will be necessary and a designated fund has been set up for such major purchases. At present, to replace G-SASH, the charity would be looking at something in the region of £6 – 8 million – which is a huge amount of money. This clearly illustrates why it is so important for us to financially plan & secure the future of the YAA.”
Operational advances in recent years have led to significant improvements to the YAA’s service. The charity now operates both its own helicopters through their own Air Operators Certificate which also allows it to employ its own pilots, which has lead to an increased number of available and actual flying hours for both of the helicopters. Their two air support units are equipped with state of the art technology and infrastructure, which enable the crews to respond to incidents in the quickest possible time.
This summer will also see a further advancement to the service when the charity will relocate from their current base at Leeds Bradford Airport to a new improved base at Nostell Priory near Wakefield.
Peter added: “The relocation to Nostell will enhance our service across the region. It will improve flying times to remote areas in West and South Yorkshire and will create an operational overlap in our busiest areas. Our new base will compliment or existing Northern base at RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk”
“These developments help underpin the fast, efficient service that we are able to provide. In summary, the increase in the annual income required reflects the cost of operational developments in recent years and also enables planned improvements to the service into the future. This prudent management of funds helps to ensure that we continue to provide a first class service to the people of Yorkshire and save more lives every year.”
“The charity is extremely aware that we would not be able to fund the running of the YAA without the help and support we receive from the people of Yorkshire. Everyday we are overwhelmed by the amazing support that is shown towards the charity, from donations and fundraising events to touching stories of how we have rescued friends and family members. We are unable to convey just how grateful we are to all those people who support us, and I will once again say it to everyone who supports our charity – thank you”
Peter concludes: “We are confident that we will be able to meet the new daily running cost of £9990, and with the support of the people of Yorkshire, we can continue to provide a state of the art, rapid response emergency service 365 days per year across the region.”