Looking back at 20 years of the Great North Air Ambulance

Chief executive David Stockton, director of operations Andy Mawson and the critical care team Credit: GNAAS

The Great North Air Ambulance (GNAAS) is celebrating its 20th anniversary of serving the region.

The life-saving service has responded to over 23,500 calls since they became a charity back in 2002.

Over the years the GNAAS has introduced doctors onto the aircraft, run pre-hospital training courses for clinicians, delivered blood transfusions to over 500 patients and performed open chest surgeries.

The charity's chief executive David Stockton said: “Over the last 20 years, thanks to thesupport of the public, our charity has evolved from humble beginnings to being a world class leader in pre-hospital care.“We are always looking at ways to enhance and supplement our core service, which is treating the most seriously ill or injured people in the North."

Here we look five things that make the GNAAS the service it is today.

  • 1. GNAAS paramedics start 'flying'... literally

With the introduction of jet packs, paramedics will be able to arrive at emergencies in rural areas faster than they would in an ambulance or on foot.

  • 2. Additional cars are introduced to help transfer patients to major trauma centres

Since 2015 an all-night service has operated with rapid response vehicles which have both doctors and paramedics on board.

They have all the equipment an aircraft carries, including blood and plasma products.

The service currently runs five nights a week in the North East and two nights in Cumbria, but the charity is hoping to make the service 24/7.

GNAAS aircraft and rapid response vehicle Credit: GNAAS
  • 3. GNAAS “staggered, stunned and completely blown away” by the kindness of supporters

Everything the charity has achieved in the last 20 years is down to donations from the public.

Each year the charity has to raise £10m provide the service.

  • 4. Thousands of people have been saved through critical care administered by the service

The air ambulance covers the North East, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man, providing life saving care for people in critical conditions.

Last year the GNAAS responded to around 1,620 call-outs making it their busiest year on record.

Progress House - critical care team Credit: GNAAS
  • 5. The GNAAS service pioneered pre-hospital treatment

In 2020 a new device was introduced to the GNAAS vehicles to stop the effects of chemical burns.

Previously the Diphoterine solution had only been used primarily in hospital environments, preventing the patient burning by stopping acid or alkali chemicals when they come into contact with the body.

Andy Mawson is the director of operations at GNAAS, and said: “Our vision for the future is to be able to help those in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“By becoming a 24/7 service this would help us reach hundreds more patients every year and ensure someone’s worst day doesn’t become their last.

He continued: “We are incredibly appreciative of the support we have received over the last 20 years and want to thank everyone who has donated and fundraised for our charity as this has helped us save countless lives and ease suffering across the region.“With the continued support of the public we hope to offer this service for the next 20 years and beyond.”

To celebrate the 20th anniversary landmarks across the region will be lit up in green, including the Tyne Bridge, Beacon of Light, Royal Border Bridge, and Carlisle’s Civic Centre.

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