Children's Air Ambulance
|Legal status||Registered charity|
|Purpose||Transporting critically ill children in the UK|
|The Air Ambulance Service|
The Children's Air Ambulance is an air ambulance charity that transfers critically ill children from local hospitals to specialist paediatric centres. It also moves specialist teams to local hospitals when a child is too sick to travel. It operates mainly in England, but has also flown missions in Wales and Scotland. It was founded in 2005 and has been run by The Air Ambulance Service charity since 2011.
The service operates from Coventry Airport, and can reach anywhere in the UK within two hours and reach all of the UK's specialist children’s units within 70 minutes. Children and clinical teams are moved using an AgustaWestland AW109 helicopter, which was leased by the charity in October 2012. It has a top speed of 185 mph. The helicopter always flies with two pilots and, when transporting a child, generally carries a paediatrician and a specialist nurse on board.
Children are transported in a bespoke stretcher (certified for flight) which was designed and built in partnership with consultant paediatricians and transport nurses. No specialised stretcher for paediatric helicopter transfer existed at the time. The stretcher was nicknamed ‘Shrek’ because the first one was painted green. ‘Shrek’ can carry a baby up to 8 kg being in a specialist ‘baby pod’, or facilitate larger babies and children on the stretcher mattress. The stretcher design allows for the equipment needed for paediatric intensive care to be secure and easily operated, whether in flight or on the ground. Each of the six transport teams the charity currently works with has its own ‘Shrek’ stretcher.
When a child is too sick or not able to travel, the Children's Air Ambulance will transfer specialists from the Clinical Partner Team to a local hospital. The helicopter is not an emergency helicopter, but a transfer vehicle for children and specialist teams to and from hospitals across the country. The Children’s Air Ambulance, alongside the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance which is also based at Coventry, is registered with the Care Quality Commission.
Working alongside a key clinical partner, the service has achieved accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems, a recognised international standard for safety, quality and governance.
The Children's Air Ambulance has nine clinical partners which commission transfers:
- The North West and North Wales Transport Service (NWTS)
- East Midlands Children's Heart Care Association (ECMO)
- The Children’s Acute Transport Service (CATS)
- The Southampton Oxford Retrieval Team (SORT)
- Embrace – who have recently reached 50 transfers
- South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS)
- Leicester PICU’s transfer team
- Wales & West Acute Transport for Children (WATCh)
- Newborn Emergency Stabilisation & Transport Team (NEST)
The Children's Air Ambulance was founded in 2005. It raised funds over a five-year period, but did not own, lease or provide an air ambulance service. Following an investigation by the Charity Commission into a range of complaints from the public, the charity was taken over by The Air Ambulance Service in 2011. At the time, The Air Ambulance Service operated the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance and the Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance.
Under the management of The Air Ambulance Service, which had no connection in any way with the original charity, the Children's Air Ambulance flew its first team transfer in December 2012, and its first baby in May 2013.
In October 2014 the charity made its 100th transfer and has now visited 66 hospitals.
The Children's Air Ambulance has a number of Ambassadors supporting its work, including:
- Melaine Walcott
- David Gold, Head of Public Affairs at Royal Mail Group 
- Anita Dobson
- Grace Woodward
- Stanley Fink, Lord Fink of Northwood
- Brian May
- Katie Marshall
Prior to being taken over by The Air Ambulance Service the funding figures for the previous charity were as follows.
In 2006 it raised £46,865 and spent £47,246, in 2007 it raised £19,466 and spent £2,265, in 2008 it raised £371 and spent £0, in 2009 it raised £56,542 and spent £52,232, in 2010 it raised £608,910 and spend £424,514, in 2011 it raised £563,189 and spent £488,659. In 2011 of the £488,659 spent, £427,600 was spent on governing and income generation, £61,000 was spent on charity purposes and £74,500 was retained.
The Children's Air Ambulance is now part of The Air Ambulance Service, which receives no government funding and is entirely supported by public and corporate donations. The Air Ambulance Service charity raised £11.152m in 2013.
The Children's Air Ambulance opened its first shop in 2012 in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire and now has six across the UK.
- West Bridgford
- Muswell Hill
- Crouch End
- Kings Heath
- (Opening in August 2016) Burton upon Trent
Other air ambulance organisations in the UK have said that they fear their fundraising efforts will lose out due to people donating to the CAA instead. The Children's Air Ambulance Trust has caused some confusion whilst fundraising with people confusing the CAA with local air ambulances such as Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Devon Air Ambulance.
There have been some reports of established air ambulance charities warning potential donors to avoid 'bogus air ambulance charity collectors' when actually the collections are for the CAA. During initial fundraising some confusion was caused as the charity did not have a helicopter and was not operational, meaning people were reluctant to donate to the half started project.
The Devon Air Ambulance has also criticised the viability of this project, since the existing air ambulances do the potential work of the CAA, they claim there is no need for an Air Ambulance dedicated to children. They also criticised the costing of the CAA who plan to provide the service 24 hours a day, saying that their estimate of £1.5 million running costs is unrealistic given the size of the area they cover, the size of the task they plan to do and the larger than normal size of the aircraft they have chosen.
In a similar incident in early 2012 The Midlands Air Ambulance distanced itself from The Children's Air Ambulance fearing that donations would not help the cause they were given for. They also doubted the need for the proposed service. Later in the year the two charities TCAA and MAA released a joint statement asserting the need for both charities to run, and to highlight the new management of TCAA had dispensed with previous poor management.
In 2011, the Charity Commission published their report of an investigation into TCAA. It found that the charity had previously spent large amounts of income on consultancy with a company owned by the founder of the charity. The Commission had also received large number of complaints regarding literature distributed by the charity that did not mention that the charity did not operate, hire or have access to an air ambulance. Advice and guidance was given on both matters.
In 2013 the head of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance was interviewed by the BBC and claimed many criticisms against TCAA, particularly surrounding fundraising. He highlighted that the name of the parent charity, The Air Ambulance Service was giving the impression to potential donors that they were representing all UK air ambulances, when in fact they only operate three of them.
Also in 2013 a leaked NHS report studying the viability of a pediatric air ambulance service found that operating regional services with the support of existing charities would be the best approach, contrary to TCAA's approach, whereby they propose to cover the entire country with one vehicle.
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