A CHARITY is preparing for a new era after its founder left the organisation due to ill health.
Grahame Pickering MBE, who started the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), has departed the organisation due to ongoing health issues after more than 20 years of dedicated service.
Mr Pickering built GNAAS from the ground up and introduced a series of initiatives in the region that have gone on to become commonplace throughout the UK, including carrying doctors on board air ambulance missions.
Brian Jobling, chairman at GNAAS, said the charity simply would not exist if not for Grahame’s tenacity in getting it off the ground.
He added: “Without any meaningful resources, working entirely on his own and from home, Grahame set off on this journey, and look now – he has achieved his vision of providing the people of the region with a world class pre-hospital care service previously unavailable.
“In spite of significant obstructions and difficulties in the early days, Grahame’s determination and fight for independence finally won through.
“Last year alone over 1200 incidents were responded to, totalling 20,000 overall. With the generous support of the public, the charity has prevented many unnecessary deaths and relieved serious suffering throughout our region.”
In 2011, in recognition of his humanity, dedication and success, Mr Pickering was awarded an MBE for emergency health care – an award recognising not just his contribution but the support of many within the industry and the wider community.
Mr Jobling added: “Grahame’s achievements can be seen all around us. In the latest in medical equipment, advanced medical practices, helicopters and a new centre of medical excellence near Eaglescliffe.
“GNAAS now trains and is recognised by medics both nationally and internationally as a leading provider of emergency pre-hospital care.
“He leaves GNAAS with the charity in good health. His ethos of innovation and independence remains deeply embedded throughout the organisation and we would like to thank him sincerely for everything he has done, not just for GNAAS, but for the region as a whole. We wish him well for the future.”