Imagining life as a farmer perhaps brings to mind a pastoral idyll of sun-drenched cornfields and fluffy lambs gambolling in spring time. But not only is living off the land extremely hard work, it can also be extremely dangerous. Farmers make up 1.8% of the workforce in Great Britain, and yet, staggeringly, agriculture accounts for 19% of all work related fatal injuries. Farming has indeed the highest occupational ill-health records of any major employment sector. In a study of a ten-year period from 1999/2000 to 2008/2009, 436 people were killed as a result of agricultural work activity; an average of 43 people each year – that is almost one a week. Dangerous machinery and isolated locations can be a lethal combination.
Thank goodness the East Anglian Air Ambulance is on hand! Established in 2000, the EAAA provides Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Serving a huge region, which includes many remote and inaccessible places, EAAA helicopter ambulances can reach patients anywhere within 25 minutes, and airlift them to hospital if necessary. In many emergencies, the likelihood of a full recovery – or even survival – can depend on the level of specialist medical care they receive, and how quickly they receive it. The range of time-critical procedures performed by EAAA’s highly skilled doctors and paramedics at the scene means they offer a standard of emergency care usually found only in hospital. It is truly life-saving work.
Cambridgeshire arable farmer, George Munns, would certainly agree. He suffered an accident involving a potato harvesting machine in a field on his farm. George’s farm is 15 minutes by ambulance from a main road, and almost an hour away from the nearest hospital. Owing to the seriousness of the injury and his remote location, the air ambulance was called. If it were not for the EAAA crew’s initial treatment and swift transfer to Addenbrookes Hospital, he would have lost his left arm. George now has nearly full use of his arm. The Munns family support the East Anglian Air Ambulance through sales of their rapeseed oil.
From 2013 the East Anglian Air Ambulance has been able to attend emergencies during the hours of darkness. It was a much needed and exciting new development for the charity, which was the first air ambulance charity in England, to provide a nighttime helicopter emergency medical service in support of the NHS Ambulance Service. Now that it is able to operate in the dark as well as daylight hours, the charity can attend around 30% more missions, helping an estimated 300 more patients a year.
Of course, the advanced skills of the doctors and paramedics, the extensive equipment needed and the expense of operating two helicopters means that the EAAA’s service is costly. A single life-saving mission costs on average £3,500, making the next annual fundraising goal over £11m! The EAAA does not receive any direct funding from the Government, which means it is entirely dependent on its many enthusiastic local fundraisers, without whom it simply could not continue with its life-saving work.