THE Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has applied for £1.9m of funding to create a centre of medical excellence in the North-East.
Several sites in the Darlington and Tees Valley area are under consideration for the new base, which would bring the charity’s operational crew and its fundraising and administrative staff under one roof.
Grahame Pickering MBE, a former ambulance service paramedic who launched the charity from a back room in his house fifteen years ago, said the main benefit of the move was the boost it would provide to the charity’s research and training functions through the centre of excellence.
He said: “We are offering more comprehensive care year on year. Last year we started carrying blood. This year, plasma. But these developments – which are saving lives – are only made possible through training and research.
“The new site would give us the perfect platform to be able to take this further, as well as space to share that knowledge with other emergency services for the benefit of patients everywhere. It’s a really exciting time.”
The charity has applied for funding from a pot of money levied by the Government on banks found to be guilty of fixing the inter-bank lending rates. The charity’s vision has attracted cross-party political support, with local MPs from across the political divide writing in support of the plans.
Last year, GNAAS was successful in accessing £250,000 of the money in order to develop a feasibility study and expand its plans.
With that work done, Mr Pickering said it was clear that a move was the best option for the long-term future of the charity. “Initial consultations with supporter groups have been wholly supportive,” he added.
Under the current funding proposal, he said the charity would make “considerable savings” as it would not be paying rent on three different sites as staff would be under one roof. Having on-site meeting and training space would also eliminate the need to rent external facilities.
He said: “Through the support of the public, the service has grown into one of the most pioneering emergency response teams in the country. Now we need to safeguard that and then take it to the next level.”
Mr Pickering said the move would not have any adverse effect on response times to other parts of the region. The charity’s operational and fundraising bases in Cumbria would be unaffected by the proposals, he added.
A public consultation period will begin over the coming weeks, please click here for the latest on the project.