20 Years By Your Side

For the last 20 years we have been by the side of people across Dorset and Somerset and you have been with us all the way. We have been tasked to thousands of missions and have helped to save so many lives. During this time, our service has been able to improve and enhance beyond recognition; none of this would have been possible without your support!

The need for our service is rising year on year; we must make sure we continue to be there for the next 20 years and beyond. Your support is vital; we simply can’t do this without you!

We would love you to join us today and support our '20 Years By Your Side' Campaign!

Your donations and brilliant fundraising really do make a difference to patients' lives, thank you!

In 2000, a grant from a £14 million fund established by the Automobile Association (AA) was distributed to existing air ambulances in
the UK for development and to aspirant air ambulances to get them started. At around the same time in Dorset and Somerset, there was a transition going on in the region’s ambulance service. Dorset Ambulance Service had joined the Western Ambulance Service, forming the South Western Ambulance Service. Having seen air ambulance services start up in Cornwall in 1987 and in Devon five years later, the late Sir Brian Kenny (1934-2007) and a group of others felt it was time that the remaining two west country counties should have their own.

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is born

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance was registered as a charity in December 1999. Operating out of Henstridge Airfield in a Bölkow 105 helicopter, the aircraft carried a crew of two paramedics and a pilot and operated during daylight hours only.

During the first three years of operation, our aircraft costs were met by the AA grant and our medical costs were met by the ambulance service. Our aircraft, pilots and engineering support came from Bond Air Services and the paramedics were seconded from the South
Western Ambulance Service.

Our service came online at 8.00am on the 21st March 2000; 52 minutes later we were tasked to our first mission. (Read our first patient, Kenn Duffield's story). By the end of the first year, we had completed a total of 617 missions. These took place almost equally between Dorset and Somerset. Since then, with thanks to community support, our service has been able to improve and enhance beyond recognition. We now provide an air and road-delivered critical care service 19 hours a day, 365 days a year. With no direct Government or National Lottery funding, we rely on the generosity of the public to help us raise our operational costs, which currently stand at more than £4 million a year.

Clinical model

When the charity started out, our original twin-paramedic model of operation was pretty much the standard of the time and changed very little for many years. The principle was to get to the patient as quickly as possible, carry out an immediate assessment, stabilise
them and package them for transportation to hospital.

Today, each of our missions are attended by a critical care team, which consists of a doctor and at least one critical care practitioner, sometimes two depending on whether we are flying during the day or night. Providing this level of critical care means that Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance isn’t just a faster taxi ride to hospital, it delivers clinicians with specialist skills such as those found within an intensive care unit or resuscitation department, to the patient’s side within minutes; effectively bringing the hospital direct to the patient.

NEXT: The transition between models