Bosses at Midlands Air Ambulance Charity say they are proactively looking at new ways of working, as huge losses in fundraising income are forecast over the course of the current financial year.
But it comes as there has been a surge in demand for its services during lockdown, especially to incidents such as road traffic collisions involving cyclists and assaults involving stabbings.
The community-funded charity, which responds to emergencies across the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Shropshire, faces running costs of £9 million a year, but with a string of fundraising events cancelled it is under significant pressure.
Bosses are urging people to donate what they can to safeguard its services for the future.
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Emma Gray, the charity’s fundraising and marketing director, said: “At Midlands Air Ambulance, our primary focus is always the patient and we continue to treat the most critically injured and unwell people across the Midlands on a daily basis.
“Sadly, the charity has not escaped the resulting economic effects of the pandemic.
“Over the last few months, we had to make a lot of changes to the way we work.
“Face to face fundraising via talks, presentations and events has moved to ‘virtual fundraising’, with online events and campaigns to help raise the funds needed. We also had to temporarily close our four community-based charity shops and cancel our popular events programme.
“Due to the exceptional change in circumstances this year, we forecast a 48 per cent reduction in fundraising income this financial year. However, at the same time, demand for the charity’s rapid response service does not falter, so we need local community support, now more than ever.”
The charity, based at RAF Cosford, Tatenhill and Strensham, relies entirely on donations, with each air ambulance mission costing an average of £2,500.
It operates critical care cars in addition to three air ambulances and also covers areas of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
One of the events the charity was forced to postpone this year was its popular Bike4Life Ride Out and Festival, with bikers assembling at RAF Cosford. It had been due to take place in April but was replaced by a virtual event.
Ways to donate can be found at midlandsairambulance.com
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“When the pandemic first kicked off in March we found we were going to less industrial accidents because places had shut down,” said Karen Baker, critical care paramedic and airbase supervisor at the charity’s RAF Cosford airbase.
“We were going to more road traffic collisions relating to cyclists and pedestrians; people who had been hit by cars.
“Those involving push bikes went up 400 per cent during lockdown up until the end of June, compared to last year.
“All our aircraft were seeing the same. It was the same in cities as it was in rural areas.”
From March 23, when the UK was put into lockdown, to the end of June, the charity also responded to several incidents involving ‘penetrating injuries’.
There had not been a single incident of such type in the same period last year.
Karen said: “We have seen a rise in assaults in terms of stabbings.
“We were finding that we were going out to more during the daytime at the height of the lockdown. There were a lot more domestic incidents.”
Over the last three months, the charity has also seen a rise in responses to incidents involving falls, unconscious adults and paediatric cardiac arrests, compared to the same period last year. And its crews have had to take additional precautionary measures when heading out on missions.
Karen, who has been employed by West Midlands Ambulance Service for 19 years and has been with the charity for 12 years, said: “We have had to do our job as normally as possible but we have had to adapt. All that comes around PPE.
“Our helicopter is a confined space. We have had to take measures to protect ourselves and we have to use PPE for every incident we go to.
“It’s been a difficult period too as we are going to lose a lot of fundraising. We need as much support as possible.” The charity has been urging people to donate throughout the pandemic and efforts have included the launch of an online bucket collection, which has raised more than £2,000 so far.
The latest fundraising initiative will run until September 13, with the charity hoping to exceed its target of £10,000.
That amount would fund 14 of the rapid response service’s missions – three air and 11 by critical care car. People can donate at justgiving.com/campaign/maaconlinebucketcollection
The charity needs to raise £6.5 million every year to operate the service, with each mission on average costing £1,500.