A POTTED HISTORY OF AN INCREDIBLE CHARITY
In 1991, the board of the Lincolnshire Ambulance NHS Trust, of which our first Chairman the late John Hill was a member, decided to explore the possibility of providing an air ambulance for Lincolnshire. John spoke to a helicopter provider at Doncaster Airport and discovered the service would cost £600,000 per year if they leased a helicopter – representing £1 per person in the county at the time.
John’s first job was to recruit a Board of Trustees and a fundraiser. Dr Alan Sagar, still a Trustee today, played a key role in those early days, together with Mike Gillon, who was the first ambulance officer to head up the clinical team, Ian Massey and Dr Cyril Nyman.
Our first charity Headquarters were humble to say the least, including various Portakabins and even a caravan! Our first donation was £50 cash posted through the letter box of Horncastle Ambulance Station by an elderly couple who had just married.
By April 1994 it was decided that the only way to boost the donations to a level such that it would match the anticipated monthly outgoings, was to start flying. The charity had sufficient money for about 3 months’ of fyling.
Medical Aviation Services, (MAS), provided our very first helicopter – a Bolkow, and we have remained with the company to this day. Next, an arrangement was made with RAF Waddington fto allow us to fly from there until we found something more permanent. We are still there 23 years later.
Our service first became operational on April 3, 1994 and our first airlift was arried out on May 13. We were able to maintain this for just 4 months until we finally ran out of funds and the service was temporarily withdrawn. With the help of one of our Trustees, Paul Croft, we managed to gain sponsorship from the Standard group of newspapers, initially for a year, extended to 2 years.
The grounding of the service proved to be beneficial in raising our profile and we quickly recovered the situation. On March 29, 1995 we were once again in a position to re-launch the service. Soon the charity began to receive sufficient income to match the outgoings on a monthly basis and an administrator, Maggie Woodward, was appointed to manage the finances.
In 1996 we extend our service to cover Nottinghamshire as well as Lincolnshire, increasing our fundraising base substantially. With this came an offer from the Nottingham Post to provide sponsorship for 2 years. By this time we now had 4 members of paid staff.
The farming community became great supporters of the charity in those early days, something that has continued with some substantial on-going fundraising from the Nottinghamshire Farmers Countryside Appeal, (NAACA), which continues to this very day.
In 1998 John Hill handed over the reigns to Allan Blackley who became our new Chairman. It was under his governance that our first CEO, Peter Aldrick, was appointed in September 1999.
In 2000 the charity opted to move from the Bolkow to a new generation of aircraft, the MD902 Explorer, G-LNAA. This helicopter served the charity well and in November 2010, when the contract expired we took on a new MD902 helicopter, G-LNCT.
In October 2013, G-LNCT was given the all clear to start limited night-flying operations resulting in additional emergency cover for patients after dark.
In 2015 there was another change when Peter Aldrick handed over the reigns to our current CEO Karen Jobling after 16 years.
By this time we had made the bold decision to upgrade our trusty MD902 Explorer to an AgustaWestland 169 – a top of the range Helicopter Emergency Medical Service aircraft. This new state of the art helicopter, G-LNAC, came into service at the Charity in June 2017.
In September 2017 the charity made another bold move when it started to carry blood on board, allowing the medical crew to deliver potentially life-saving blood-transfusions at the scene of an incident or accident.
These advances mean that the charity now needs to raise £2.5m a year in order to keep the service running. We now have over 30 paid staff spread across the 2 counties and over 500 fantastic volunteers who help them make all of this possible.
We still receive no direct government funding so remain reliant on public donations, but the incredible passion and loyalty of everyone involved, from crew to trustees, charity teams, volunteers and fundraisers, keeps the charity going from strength to strength. We have now flown over 18,400 missions since that first airlift in 1994, and have literally changed and helped to save thousands of lives.
Current Trustees of the charity are: Joint Chairman: Jack O’Hern and Jonty Pearson, Vice Chairman: Paul Croft and Andrew Pearce, Trustees: Dr Alan Sagar, Graham Secker, Dr Bob Winter, Penny Would and Lucie Briggs.