A SERVICE which has saved hundreds of lives since being set up in Cumbria is celebrating a milestone birthday this month.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has reached 10 years since becoming operational in the county – with a staggering 4,500 missions under its belt.
“It has never been easy,” said chief executive, Grahame Pickering. “It was a battle setting it up and it remains a battle to keep enough money coming in. It is clear now though that this service is needed.
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“There are thousands of people out there who would testify to that from personal experience.”
The service operates using green and white helicopter the Pride of Cumbria, which attends everything from falls on the fells to road accidents and industrial incidents.
It came into operation in 2004 after the GNAAS service – based in Northumberland– began to get more and more call-outs in Cumbria and it became clear it needed its own dedicated air ambulance.
“The road network isn’t always ideal for transferring patients,” said Mr Pickering.
“The distances to hospitals can also cause problems.”
The aircraft was based in Appleby before moving to its current base at Langwathby.
The charity’s finances took a hit when the tsunami hit South East Asia in 2004, and donations from local people were diverted elsewhere.
The charity, which receives no government funding, still has to spend £2,500 every time it is called out, on fuel, staffing and equipment.
“Lif ise difficult but with continued support we can make it work, and the Pride of Cumbria can continue its life saving work whenever and wherever it is needed,” added Mr Pickering.
To mark the anniversary the service has produced a limited edition Pride of Cumbria bear, available at www.gnaas.com/shop or from 01325-487263.