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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Who pays for the air ambulance?
Air Ambulance
Mike Hardy from High Wycombe is an air ambulance volunteer and he wrote to the BBC News website to raise public awareness that the service receives no Government support.

"None of the 18 regional air ambulance services in England or Wales get any government money," says Mike, "It's only Scottish air ambulances that get any funding, which I think is extremely unfair."

The Department of Health do pay for the clinical staff on the helicopters but not for the pilots or the running costs.

Mike began volunteering at the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust in June 2004.

Charity work

"At the time I was working for John Lewis and they paid for me to spend six months on secondment. The air ambulance is a charity and they needed a business manual, so I compiled one for them."

Mike Hardy
Mike Hardy wants Government funding for air ambulances

"When I arrived, they were so busy getting the job done and trying to keep up with paperwork that they didn't even have a first aid box in their office. They went out and bought one straight away."

The Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance has been flying since June 1999, answering an average of 76 emergency calls a month (based on 2006 figures).

Mike says "It's so important. Without it and the hundreds of volunteers, people would tragically lose their lives. But it is a constant struggle to find the money they need to keep going."

Petition

Mike has started up a petition on the Downing Street website and needs 200 signatures to guarantee a response from Number 10.

"What I want is for the Government to acknowledge that funding Scotland but not England and Wales is unjust. Everybody knows about the air ambulances but I bet the vast majority think they're paid for by the NHS. That could not be further from the truth."
Air Ambulance
Air ambulance at Watford Junction rail crash

Mike has the support of his local MP, Paul Goodman, who has promised to lobby the Department of Health. He's also printed posters and handouts to raise local awareness.

Despite this support, the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust don't want to get involved with Mike's campaign. "They worry that it's too political for them," says Mike.

"But I'll keep on fighting. I was made redundant from John Lewis in April 2006 but I've still kept up my involvement with the air ambulance. I believe they are a vital resource and without proper funding they'll always be in jeopardy."

Expensive

In a statement, the Department of Health said "Whilst air ambulances do bring benefits in particular circumstances, they are very expensive to operate. Therefore, while the NHS does fund the cost of clinical staff on air ambulances, it is a local decision as to whether any additional funding should be made available."




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