Exclusive: Midlands Air Ambulance reveals plans for new HQ at Cosford

Midlands Air Ambulance today unveiled plans to make Cosford the home of a new multi-million pound headquarters.

Ready for action at RAF Cosford – Air Ambulance paramedics Mike Andrews and Pete Edwards along with pilot Alastair Lees
Ready for action at RAF Cosford – Air Ambulance paramedics Mike Andrews and Pete Edwards along with pilot Alastair Lees

The lifesaving charity, which covers six counties and provides critical pre-hospital emergency care through specially trained medics, has drawn up plans for its first dedicated headquarters on a site in Cosford.

The project is currently at the pre-application stage with Shropshire Council but a socially-distanced pre-booked public consultation evening explaining the proposals is already planned at RAF Cosford Museum on October 3 and 4. Anyone wishing to attend can email info@midlandsairambulance.com.

Under the proposals a new headquarters would be built on land off Neachley Lane in Cosford, and would be a base for two helicopters.

The plans also include significant training facilities to allow medics to learn, or keep up with advanced skills, such as administering powerful drugs, performing amputations at the scene, tracheotomies, or other serious critical and life saving procedures.

The charity said it had considered a number of sites before settling on the Neachley Lane proposal. It is also considering if it can extend its hours of operation, which are currently 7am to 8pm.

Where the new headquarters would be built at Cosford

Ian Roberts, air operations manager, said the new base would be a huge advantage to the medics, and ultimately the patients and the people of the Midlands.

He said: “To have a facility like this would give us the ability to have a great standard for future operations and the development of clinicians to take them to the next level of what we can ultimately deliver to patients.”

Although the organisation is not in a position to put a cost on the project at this stage, a number of other air ambulance charities across the country have worked on similar plans with costs ranging between £7m and £15m.

If it gets the go-ahead the charity says it also expects the new base, which would include a memorial and events space, would create five to 10 new jobs over the space of the next three years. Its other bases in Staffordshire and Worcestershire would remain, allowing it to reach emergencies in six counties across the Midlands.

Emma Gray, fundraising director for the Midlands Air Ambulance said: “This is all about the patient being at the heart of what we do and planning for the future.”

At Cosford the charity currently operates out of what are effectively temporary-style buildings. It means that there is no dedicated training set-up, or areas to hold sensitive conversations with patients or grieving families.

There is also little scope to host educational visits and sessions, which Ms Gray said the charity was keen to develop – particularly around the impact of knife crime or the mental health. It is hoped to build the new facilities within two years.

Why service needs a proper dedicated headquarters

Midlands Air Ambulance critical care paramedics Mike Andrews and Pete Edwards with pilot Alastair Lees, at the charity's Cosford base.

For people seriously injured in road accidents or suffering a potentially fatal cardiac arrest it is the most important service available, but most would be surprised to see highly-skilled air ambulance medics working out of temporary buildings, and having to train in any spare space available.

It is one of the major reasons behind the Midlands Air Ambulance plans to build a dedicated headquarters in Cosford.

The service’s critical care paramedics deliver some of the most skilled treatment outside of an operating theatre – performing amputations at the roadside, tracheotomies for seriously sick patients, and administering powerful drugs to the seriously injured and sick.

The 18-month training required to take on the position is a step up from the traditional land ambulance requirements – and it stands to reason, the air ambulance is tasked with reaching only the most serious of cases.

But those visiting the charity’s Cosford facilities will see why the service is looking to create its own dedicated headquarters, complete with a specialist training centre.

One of the air ambulances

Currently training or debriefing after what can be an extremely traumatic shift takes place in any room available in what are effectively temporary buildings.

The aspiration is to create a centre of excellence where paramedics can hone their advanced skills to ensure the best care for the people of the region, while a generation of future medics can also learn alongside those actually doing the job.

The charity’s fundraising director, Emma Gray said: “The facilities here, if you think of the situations they find themselves in, then there are not many spaces they can even go if they have had a really bad shift just to get some time to reflect.

“We debrief on every mission we go on and at the moment that is done in any location we can find.”

She added: “Our view is our operational model needs to change, it is not appropriate in the long term to have crews operating out of a portacabin.”

Ian Roberts, air operations manager at the charity said it is important to provide appropriate training and support services for paramedics who are “skin and bone as well”.

He said: “We are very keen to support the staff because it is what they do every day.

“We are very aware PTSD can affect our staff and we want to do everything we can to make their working environment as pleasant as possible and to provide the debriefing and support that they may need.”

An air ambulance in action

Mr Roberts explained how the training facilities would allow them to ensure a supply of advanced medics for the future, and keep staff up to date with vital and difficult skills.

Another aim for the new headquarters is to provide a memorial space and room for events – something that is a necessity when it needs to raise £10m in public funding every year just to keep going.

The new facility would also provide space to meet with patients who have been saved by the charity, or even grieving families seeking comfort or answers about a loved one’s death.

Ms Gray said: “A lot of ex-patients want to meet the crew and piece together what happened – they may have been unconscious or had very little recollection of what happened. At the moment we try to do that to the best of our ability but I think we can do that more.

“It is a growing trend to help patients and families recover from that traumatic experience.”

Mr Roberts added: “Family members, when people have died often want to talk about it, to find out if they were in pain, if they were alone at the time, they want to complete the circle to help them move on.

“The building will help with that because we would have a facility where there is a private room away from the hustle and bustle of the building and we can take them to that room and give them the answers they need.”

The proposals for the new headquarters will be considered by Shropshire Council but the charity is keen to work with Cosford residents to ensure their support of the plans.

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