Why Cornwall Air Ambulance has been going to the Isles of Scilly less

The main aircraft had to be taken offline for its annual servicing period to cover essential maintenance. Credit: Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust

Cornwall Air Ambulance says essential maintenance led to less than half the average number of callouts to the Isles of Scilly last year.

The emergency helicopter flew to the islands 46 times in 2019 in what is described as "an average year in terms of Isles of Scilly mission numbers".

But figures have fallen ever since and in 2022 the aircraft landed on the island just 18 times.

Annual Isles of Scilly missions:

  • 2019 - 46 missions

  • 2020 - 26 missions

  • 2021 - 34 missions

  • 2022 - 18 missions

The charity said the initial drop in 2020 was because of Covid restrictions and 2021 saw a bounce back to normal levels.

The drop in 2022 is explained by a change in helicopter operator and the yearly servicing of the primary aircraft.

The emergency medic team say a backup aircraft was used during this time which had different operational limits and reduced the cover period to the Isles of Scilly.

The charity says islanders are four times better served by the aircraft than the rest of Cornwall Credit: ITV News

A Cornwall Air Ambulance spokesperson said: "This reduced the cover period to the Isles of Scilly as the aircraft is only type rated for safety to operate up to sea state 4 wave conditions, compared to the primary aircraft which can operate up to sea state 6 for emergency calls.

"The back-up aircraft also has less weight capacity limits, so the fuel load is reduced to accommodate the floats and when carrying a doctor the aircraft is out of weight limits."

Cornwall Air Ambulance is sent to emergency missions across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the South Western Ambulance Service's Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) desk. The coastguard can also be alerted by the HEMS desk and is often an alternative means of getting people back to the mainland in emergencies.

The charity says that despite the fewer missions to the Isles of Scilly, people living on the islands are four times more likely to be attended by the charity than the rest of Cornwall.

"During 2022 we were tasked to 17 missions on the Isles of Scilly, which is the equivalent of one callout for every 135 people in terms of population, whereas in Cornwall we were tasked to one callout for every 533 people.

"So according to the figures, we are four times as likely to be attended by the charity on the Isles of Scilly than the rest of the county."

So far in 2023 the air ambulance has attended six missions to the Isles of Scilly and says it is "dedicated to being ready to respond to the most seriously sick or injured patients across both Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly".