The Great North Air Ambulance is celebrating 15 years as a charity

The Great North Air Ambulance is celebrating 15 years as a charity

An air ambulance service that regularly rescues stricken outdoor enthusiasts is celebrating a milestone in its history.

This weekend, the Great North Air Ambulance Service will celebrate with more than 350 supporters at its annual ball, held 15 years to the day it was formally registered as a charity.

Its helicopters are regularly called to support mountain rescuers in treating and airlifting injured walkers, climbers, runners and mountain bikers from the mountains and countryside of northern England.

Grahame Pickering, the charity’s chief executive, said the landmark was a testament to the generosity of the people of the North-East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

He said: “The charity has evolved from very humble beginnings to become one of the UK’s leading air ambulances.

“Over the last 15 years, with the support of the general public, the charity’s innovative and groundbreaking practice, often months or years ahead of other pre-hospital services, has enhanced the standards of care delivered to more than 16,000 patients in our region.

“Never before has the region had such an advanced critical care out of hospital service that has benefitted so many individuals and their families. A credit to the people of the North.”

Great North Air Ambulance Service

Great North Air Ambulance Service

Ahead of the ball, which is being hosted by GNAAS patron Pam Royle, Mr Pickering met patients at the charity’s Cumbrian base at Langwathby.

Neil Wilson, of Berwick, was one of those present. He needed a pre-hospital blood transfusion – one of the first to take place in the North of England – when he was involved in a cycling accident.

“GNAAS are phenomenal,” he said. “It’s only when you need them that you realise how vital they are.”

Among those in attendance at this weekend’s celebration in Gateshead will be Henry Brooke, a professional jockey whose career was thrown into jeopardy in a fall at Hexham Racecourse last year. Thanks to GNAAS, and subsequently from the team of medics and the rehabilitation centre, Mr Brooke has since returned to the saddle.

He said: “It’s hard to imagine what we did before GNAAS existed. My life certainly wouldn’t have been the same. It’s a great reminder for us all to dig deep and get behind this cause.”

Mr Brooke and his family have donated several items to the auction at the ball, including a Grand National race card signed by all participating jockeys, and signed Premier League football shirts.

Mr Pickering said: “We are proud to have some of our patients coming along on the night. We are hugely grateful to Henry for supporting us. After all, he and the other patients are the living embodiment of what we are here for.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the charity can call 01325 487263 or visit its website.

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