Cumbria Crack

Great North Air Ambulance Service celebrates fifteen years

Back row – Alison, Marc and Andrew Reed, Neil Wilson, Will Clark, GNAAS chief executive Grahame Pickering MBE, Aiden, Rachel and Scarlett Hall. Front row – GNAAS pilot Phil Lambert, doctor Chris Johnson and paramedic Terry Sharpe.
Back row – Alison, Marc and Andrew Reed, Neil Wilson, Will Clark, GNAAS chief executive Grahame Pickering MBE, Aiden, Rachel and Scarlett Hall. Front row – GNAAS pilot Phil Lambert, doctor Chris Johnson and paramedic Terry Sharpe.

[T]he region’s air ambulance is celebrating 15 years as an independent registered charity.

This weekend, the Great North Air Ambulance Service will celebrate with more than 350 supporters at its annual ball, held fifteen years to the day it was formally registered as a charity.

Grahame Pickering MBE, the charity’s chief executive, said the landmark was a testament to the generosity of the people of the North-East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

He said: “The charity has evolved from very humble beginnings to become one of the UK’s leading air ambulances.

“Over the last 15 years, with the support of the general public, the charity’s innovative and ground breaking practice, often months or years ahead of other pre-hospital services, has enhanced the standards of care delivered to more than 16,000 patients in our region.

“Never before has the region had such an advanced critical care out of hospital service that has benefitted so many individuals and their families. A credit to the people of the North.”

Among those in attendance at this weekend’s celebration at the Hilton in Gateshead will be Henry Brooke, the professional jockey whose career was thrown into jeopardy in a fall at Hexham Racecourse last year. Thanks to GNAAS, and subsequently from the team of medics and the rehab centre, Mr Brooke has since returned to the saddle.

He said: “It’s hard to imagine what we did before GNAAS existed. My life certainly wouldn’t have been the same. It’s a great reminder for us all to dig deep and get behind this cause.”

Mr Brooke and his family have donated several items to the auction at the ball, including a Grand National racecard signed by all participating jockeys, and signed Premier League football shirts.

Mr Pickering said: “We are proud to have some of our patients coming along on the night. We are hugely grateful to Henry for supporting us. After all, he and the other patients are the living embodiment of what we are here for.”

Ahead of the ball, which is hosted by GNAAS patron Pam Royle, Mr Pickering today (WED MAY 10) met patients at the charity’s Cumbrian base at Langwathby.

Neil Wilson, of Berwick, was one of those present. He needed a pre-hospital blood transfusion – one of the first to take place in the North of England – when he was involved in a cycling accident.

“GNAAS are phenomenal,” he said. “It’s only when you need them that you realise how vital they are.”

To support GNAAS, please call 01325-487263 or visit

15_Year_Logo_FINALGNAAS History Timeline

Pre 2002 – The Great North Air Ambulance Service Appeal is launched in 1991 as a trust with the aim of supporting the work of an air ambulance. The aircraft is bought and donated to the Northumbria Ambulance Service NHS Trust in 1994 and is the first helicopter air ambulance in the North of England. The trust continues to raise money to donate to support the work of the air ambulance, which is based in Blyth.

May 13, 2002 – The organisation becomes a charitable company, registered with the Charity Commission. This marks a new age for the organisation, which is no longer a conduit of donations but an autonomous, independent provider of air ambulance services.

June 2002 – The charity’s headquarters in Grange Road, Darlington, is opened.

July 2002 – The charity increases air ambulance provision in the region by introducing an independent service at Teesside Airport (now Durham Tees Valley Airport).

May 2003 – The Teesside operation expands to become a seven day service, and the aircraft is upgraded.

July 2003 – The Great North Air Ambulance Service Trading Company, previously established to receive sponsorship money, begins active trading as a recycling operation.

September 2003 – In partnership with James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, the charity introduces doctors onto its aircraft, a significant progression in the standard of pre-hospital care.

June 2004 – The GNAAS Helicopter Emergency Medicine Crew Course enrols its first students. Developed in partnership with London Air Ambulance, the course is the only one specifically aimed at medical air ambulance crew members, and consequently sets new standards on a national level.

July 2004 – The charity starts to directly employ paramedics, removing the reliance on ambulance services for crew.

August 2004 – Through its trading company, GNAAS leases a helicopter off the ambulance service. This is an important moment as it gives the organisation total independence and removes NHS liabilities.

August 2004 – The charity provides a second helicopter, this one based in Cumbria, to increase coverage.

May 2006 – The charity’s Cumbrian aircraft extends its operation to seven days a week.

September 2006 – The charity’s aircraft in Cumbria is upgraded, improving performance and endurance.

December 2008 – GNAAS is a key player in the creation of the Air Ambulance Framework Document, the first ever national guidelines for all UK air ambulance services.

January 2009 – A permanent base is opened for the charity’s aircraft in Cumbria, at Langwathby near Penrith.

September 2009 – The charity develops a university accredited qualification in helicopter advanced medical care, in conjunction with Teesside University. This is the latest training offering from the organisation and one which paves the way for the next generation of expert air ambulance clinicians.

March 2010 – The charity takes delivery of the first of three new aircraft. The three Dauphin helicopters are bought, rather than leased, giving the charity valuable assets that will help safeguard its financial position in years to come.

February 2011 – The new Pride of Cumbria aircraft enters service at Langwathby.

September 2011 – The third Dauphin helicopter is handed over to GNAAS and enters service for the charity.

January 2015 – The charity becomes one of the first in the UK to carry blood on its air ambulance missions after the Blood on Board project is launched. This is the latest result of the charity’s commitment to research and development.

April 2015 – The charity teams up with North East Ambulance Service to provide an all-night doctor-led trauma team, known as the Medical Emergency Response Incident Team (MERIT). Hundreds of patients are treated in the first 12 months of the service.

May 2015 – The charity forms a Clinical Standards Panel with the aim of safeguarding the high standards of care delivered by the charity’s clinicians at all times.

May 2016 – Following on from the success of the Blood on Board service, plasma is introduced onto the charity’s aircraft to further improve patients’ chances.

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