Flight to Recovery: the work of Yorkshire Air Ambulance

Lynne Copley with new U3A Chairman Keith Coates
Lynne Copley with new U3A Chairman Keith Coates

Lynne Copley was a teacher in Huddersfield when someone rushed into the staff room one day to say a young student had been badly hurt. Rushing out, she found that a 14-year-old pupil had somehow dashed into the road, fallen, and a bus’s wheels had driven accidentally over him.

That – as she told the U3A meeting in Todmorden in July – was her first encounter with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. If the service hadn’t been available at the other end of the 999 line, that boy might well have died. Instead, he was whisked off by helicopter to hospital, made a painful but good recovery – and when he came to school, he and his parents asked if the school would raise funds for the air ambulance.

What? Isn’t it part of the NHS? Well, it’s integrated with the NHS, who pay for the paramedics on board, as Lynne explained. But the cost of the ambulance and its infrastructure have to be met from charitable funds. And that cost is enormous: £3.6 million pounds a year. £5 per month keeps it flying one more minute. Everything about helicopters is expensive. How much do your windscreen wipers cost? For an MD902 they’re £43,000!

There are two bases in Yorkshire, one at Nostell Priory near Wakefield and one at RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk. There’s a dedicated ‘air desk’ to take calls from the police. There’s a paid pilot, and volunteer doctors on hand when they can.

But the benefits for the badly-injured are enormous. With speeds of up to 160 mph over gridlocked roads, a helicopter can get any patient to the nearest A and E in ten minutes, or a specialist treatment centre in 15 minutes – well within the ‘golden hour’ medical experts say is vital to start treatment happening to save lives.

That’s why Lynne herself became a volunteer speaker and fundraiser for the service, after experiencing for herself how it saved her student’s life.

As you might imagine, the coffers were well-replenished for Yorkshire Air Ambulance after her talk. And we noted that recycling helps too: there are containers in Tod Morrisons and in Mytholmroyd for unwanted clothing that goes to help YAA.

U3A’s next meeting is on Wednesday 21 August at 1:45 at the Central Methodists Todmorden, when the speaker will be Henrietta Bond, talking about the plight of young people leaving care.

Report by Alan McDonald. Photo by Gail Allaby