Ambulance service spins off air ambulance as independent charity

31 Aug 2011 News

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal, which has always been under the control of the NHS-funded Great Western Ambulance Service, is to become a separate charity next month.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal, which has always been under the control of the NHS-funded Great Western Ambulance Service, is to become a separate charity next month.

The ambulance service had come under increasing pressure to relinquish its sole trusteeship of the appeal from air ambulance campaigners who felt there was a conflict of interest in its dual role as treasurer and user.

A year ago the ambulance service appointed air ambulance specialist and consultant David Philpott as chairman of the appeal with a remit of turning the air ambulance arm into an independent charity. Now he hopes to secure charitable status from the Charity Commission in September.

The new charity is to be called Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust and a new bank account will be opened in order to collect donations.  Eight new trustees have been appointed and one of these will eventually be elected as chair.

The creation of the new charity has been partly prompted by the forthcoming expiration of a five-year contract between Wiltshire Police and the ambulance service for the helicopter.  The helicopter has always been shared by the police and the air ambulance service, but the increasingly technical specification of the air ambulance equipment and personnel has rendered the joint arrangement inappropriate.

The £1.2m currently held in the Wiltshire air Ambulance Appeal’s reserves will be earmarked for Wiltshire Police for the remainder of the contract, which runs until December 2014.  These reserves will cover 31 of the remaining 42 months so the new charity will have to raise the remaining £440,000 needed to cover the contract until then.

From 2015 the new charity will have to fund the cost of a standalone helicopter.  Fundraising income will need to increase from £750,000 a year to £2m to cover this, but Philpott said that changes to police helicopter services should mean there will be no shortage of discounted aircraft available to lease.

Two full-time and one part-time employee of the air ambulance service will transfer to the new charity and new IT and accountancy suppliers will be sought, as these are currently provided by GWAS.  Philpott has already signalled his intention to resign from the chairmanship once charitable status is obtained.

Philpott said he had scoured the memoranda and articles of association of the other 18 air ambulance charities for the "best bits". The new charity’s constitution will allow trustees to serve for one three-year term with one more if they bring exceptional skills, though chairs can only serve for up to three years.

“In my experience one of the things that blights charities is that you end up with an entire board that have been in post so long they have lost sight of what it’s all about," he said.

“I wanted to ensure that this charity truly belongs to the people of Wiltshire and that the trustee board is fluid to ensure new people constantly become involved.”

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