ITV News reporter Matt Price has been on the frontline with emergency service teams which rely on donations to carry out lifesaving work: in the air, at sea, and with mountain and cave rescue volunteers.
Looking up at the sky from a bedroom window one morning before Christmas, I saw the air ambulance heading over to what must have been a serious crash on the motorway. Bright yellow, a dull thud from the spinning blades – you couldn’t help but notice the helicopter overhead.
I wanted to find out more about their lifesaving work. Work which is only possible thanks to generous public support; donations that keep the HEMS team operational and the helicopter in the air. It costs around £1,700 pounds each time they are called out, and a monthly drugs budget can run into £1,000.
ITV News was invited along to join HEMS crews for three days. Monday was an icy, early start, prepping the aircraft at its base. The critical care doctors and paramedics, along with the pilot made sure the chopper was fuelled and that medical kit was ready to use for when that call came in. And it didn’t take long until we were airborne.
Over the course of filming we attended some serious incidents. Nothing quite prepared me for the level of trauma we would come across, some of it too distressing to report. But in that time, we also saw some amazing lifesaving work. A fast response to ensure defibrillators were on scene and drugs were available. On each of our shouts they made a big difference.
Royal National Lifeboat Institute
But the air ambulance is not the only team which helps people in distress – thanks to public support. Britain’s lifeboat charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI), has just as important a job.
Our report features a training exercise one Sunday morning. This team carry out dummy runs like this several times a year to ensure they know how to rescue crew from a sinking boat, or to pull a casualty from rough, cold (4ºC!), dangerous water.
One thing which really stood out was the vast age range among volunteers. Some we filmed with had been a part of the RNLI for decades – others like Lewis, who is just 19, is still learning. Our cameras caught him training on how to pull ‘dead Fred’ – a weighted mannequin out of the water. He also underwent some training on sailing the larger all-weather lifeboat. There was great team work too, great camaraderie and a real sense of wanting to help their community.
Cave and Mountain Rescue
We’ve been in the air, on the sea… finally it was time to head underground with cave and mountain rescue volunteers. Caving can be dangerous, so it’s important to say at this stage we were working with trained experts throughout filming.
We headed out to a remote, rural area for the day. The scenario: a climber has gone missing and is through to be trapped in a cave with a broken leg. But as you will see in my report, getting to the casualty was harder than I thought. Tough terrain which heavy 4x4’s struggled with at times. But once on scene, the decent into darkness began!
The team taught me how to scale down the rocks into the cave. Once in, it took a while to acclimatise - it was cold, wet and dark; a stark contrast to the recent warm weather we’d been having. I have to admit, it was pretty scary being so far underground.
But again, it was so fascinating to see the work of these teams who are on call 24/7. Rick, one of the volunteers told me how he was called out on Christmas Day to help someone with a double pelvis fracture. While others remembered times when they’d just finished a day’s work – and then spent the night searching for a missing person.
All of those we spoke to have a big thank you to offer the people who regularly donate money to their causes. It pays for training, equipment, medication. It pays for lifesaving care that might not be there without that generosity.
These teams hope to never have to rescue you – but promise, if the worst happens, they will be there, doing all they can to help.