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Lifesaving care in Cambridgeshire moves to new level

An air ambulance charity has taken delivery of its new helicopter and revealed it requires another £50,000 a month to keep it flying.

Magpas Air Ambulance gave fundraisers a closer look at its new aircraft by taking to the air from its operational base in Huntingdon to visit Downham Market in Norfolk, Parker’s Piece in Cambridge, Newmarket Academy in Suffolk and Priory Country Park in Bedfordshire.

Magpas staff and crew with the new helicopter at their base at RAF Wyton. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9528188)
Magpas staff and crew with the new helicopter at their base at RAF Wyton. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9528188)

Among the waiting crowds at the venues were former patients who survived life-threatening experiences thanks to vital care from Magpas. Also attending were school children, teachers, fundraising volunteers, military paramedics, police, firefighters, businesses (including the One Group, Thomas Morris and Price Bailey) and individuals who have embarked on phenomenal fundraising challenges.

The new Augusta Westland 169 (AW169) is set to become operational from today (Wednesday). It will be able to carry enough fuel for the Magpas doctor and paramedic team to fly for more than three hours without refuelling. It also has more space to carry out medical procedues and can carry more people.

The aircraft replaces the current MD 902 Explorer which has reached the end of its working life.

However, the Augusta comes with the need of additional funding.

A spokesperson for Magpas said: “We’ve been able to fundraise to acquire this amazing bit of equipment, which will revolutionise the care we can provide. However, we need to raise an additional £50,000 a month to keep it flying every day.”

The new Magpas helicopter and the old one in flight at thier base at RAF Wyton. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9528205)
The new Magpas helicopter and the old one in flight at thier base at RAF Wyton. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9528205)

In 2018, Magpas was called to 811 incidents in Cambridgeshire with the most common being cardiac arrests, road traffic collisions and falls.

Robert Kerr, father of former patient and speedway rider Lewis Kerr is one patient who appreciated the work of the Magpas team.

He explained: “My son had an accident in 2015when he was knocked off his bike and suffered a serious head injury. Magpas Air Ambulance flew in with their specialist medical team.

“Lewis wasn’t breathing – the doctor and paramedic put him into a medically induced coma on the track and got him off to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Ten days later he walked out, so we’ll all be eternally grateful.”

Lewis’s mum, Jane added: “I would have loved to have gotten onto that helicopter with Lewis but there wasn’t enough room at the time. So to know this helicopter is bigger and a parent can go now means everything because children are frightened in that time and so is everyone else – you don’t want to be separated. It means absolutely everything to me. I just want to say thank you to Magpas Air Ambulance for everything they’ve done, I’ll be eternally grateful, because our son wouldn’t be here without them.”

Former patient, Zac, aged 10, from Cambridgeshire, described what happened to him: “I was on a swimming lesson, basically in the middle of nowhere. I started to feel sick and had a bad seizure and stopped breathing. There were no hospitals near. I am pretty much perfect right now, and I wouldn’t be here if Magpas Air Ambulance hadn’t have come.”

Magpas medical director, doctor Simon Lewis, summed up the whole importance of the helicopter launch by saying: “With the new aircraft, we can now get to patients like Zac and Lewis much quicker and we’re able to carry more medical kit too – which gets the A&E to the patient quicker and saves those lives.”

Cambridgeshire-based Magpas Air Ambulance has attended more than 60,000 patients since it was founded in 1971. The service relies on public donations to continue saving lives.

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