Crieff’s John Pritchard has been appointed team leader of the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance, which is to launch in April from Perth Airport.
The well-known local resident was recently awarded an MBE for services to the Scottish Ambulance Service, which included pioneering work for the British Association of Immediate Care Scotland (BASICS), a Perthshire-based charity specialising in high quality pre-hospital emergency care.
His 17-year ambulance experience in Strathearn followed hard on the heels of seven years with the RAF, serving across the UK and in the post-war Falklands.
Sadly, the 44-year-old has witnessed at first-hand carnage on roads throughout the county – and he’s well aware how vital it is to ferry gravely ill patients to a hospital theatre as rapidly as possible to enhance their survival and quality of life prospects.
“I regard this as a major step forward in terms of patient care for critically ill patients, especially in the more rural and remote areas,” he said.
John continued: “It’s not just about road accident victims, but obviously the length of the A9 has a track record for serious accidents. Sadly it is far from being alone. So an air ambulance based at Perth Airport will certainly be a major asset going forward in patient care.
“If you think that it would take up to two hours for a road ambulance to reach hospital from a place like Kinloch Rannoch, the helicopter can make that journey in around 16 minutes.”
He also pointed out that SCAA won’t be hindered by potential landslips, snow drifts, fallen trees and flooding – all issues the emergency services had to contend with during the recent wintry weather.
John is adamant that members of the public will back the new emergency lifeline to the hilt.
And that view was echoed by colleagues Bruce Rumgay (38), from Inchture, and Andy Walker (37), from Milnathort.
Bruce’s ambulance background may be more Dundee city streets than open rural terrain, but the one-time army PE instructor is already convinced the Perth project will prove a lifesaver.
“The timing of this was perfect for me as I had been looking into aeronautical medicine for the last four years,” he explained.
“It is all about getting the patient to the hospital as swiftly and as comfortably as possible. Inevitably the likelihood is that outwith built-up areas it will be quicker by air ambulance.
“Like the rest of the team, I’m proud to be part of the first charitable air ambulance crew in Scotland and looking to seeing how it develops in the months ahead.”
Andy, who has flying hours under his belt after volunteering to accompany RAF search and rescue crews, is no stranger to harnessing his skills in a cramped setting and at altitude – but that was high in the Himalayas.
He recalled: “In 2009, myself and my ex-partner spent three months working with the Himalayan Mountain Rescue at Pheriche, which at 4000 metres is a day’s trek below Everest base camp.
“We treated 550 patients, a mix of western trekkers, Nepalese porters and local sherpas.
“We handled everything from life-threatening altitude symptoms to chest infections, blisters and bunions. The nearest hospital was a three-day walk for the locals.
“It was all very basic, with no heating. That might stand me in good stead here – working in a helicopter could be luxurious in comparison!”
Since taking up their posts, the five-strong team have handled everything from collecting tins to a rapid-fire introduction to navigation, flight safety and basic engineering.
Bruce said: “We are all experienced paramedics. But this is certainly going to take us out of our comfort zone! But we all knew that would be part and parcel of the job.”
●The annual running costs will be an estimated £1.5 million. To support the air ambulance charitable project visit www.scaa.org.uk