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New twist in air medics row

PUBLISHED: 08:42 28 October 2010

AN increasingly heated feud has developed between the region's air ambulance service and the charity which has supplied volunteer doctors on board one of its two aircraft since 2007.

The row began as the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) announced its decision to relinquish the free scheme in favour of a private firm, which already runs air ambulances services in London and Essex, saying it would provide a more efficient year round service.

But Magpas Helimedix, which reserves around 50 doctors who donate their free time to fly to emergencies across the region in Anglia 2, has hit back at the EAAA saying the service it provides is “100% reliable”.

In a stinging rebuke, one indignant volunteer doctor said patients would die and lose limbs as a result of the transition.

The Norwich based EAAA responded to by arguing that Magpas was given the opportunity to tender for the contract earlier this year but the charity resolutely denies being offered the chance to bid.

Under the new deal, private firm EMSC will provide doctor services commercially and Anglia 2 will move from RAF Wyton to Marshall Airport in Cambridge, where a hangar can be used for maintenance.

Chief Operating Officer for Magpas, Daryl Brown, first responded to the decision saying it would ultimately lead to the displacement of the Helimedix team, and called for a “transparent and public debate” on the matter.

The EAAA immediately retaliated by saying it was “dismayed” by Magpas’ “erroneous statements”. It added that the provision of doctors on board all flights made by its two aircraft, Anglia One and Anglia Two, was unsustainable working with Magpas.

It said Magpas was invited to participate in the tender process but declined - an allegation Magpas has since refuted.

The EAAA, which costs £3.5 million a year to run, also concluded that moving operations from RAF Wyton to Marshall Airport would save £132,000 a year, and that parting company would save the cost of having an aircraft and pilot available but having to stand down on days when no Magpas crew were available.

Steve Whitby, EAAA’s deputy chief executive, said: “We have always had respect for the clinical standards of Magpas.

“By moving to Marshall and having a dedicated team, including a fully trained doctor and paramedic, we will be able to provide 365 day a year cover across the region. This would be totally in common with Anglia One and our colleagues in Essex and Herts.

“The fact we’re in Cambridge will make only a very marginal difference to response times. The big difference is that we can fly every day of the year.”

Magpas have since responded, saying: “The service Magpas provides is 100% reliable, including on Christmas Day.

“We have given over £2 million worth of local, lifesaving doctors to EAAA a year for free, whilst EAAA simply supply the helicopter.

“The team at Magpas has been continuing to provide a world class, lifesaving service within the communities across the East for 40 years. We know what we’re doing, does EAAA?”

Magpas said it will continue to respond to calls using its rapid response land vehicles, as well as the police helicopter.

Helimedix doctor Anne Booth added: “We will go by road but we are going to lose patients and there will be people dying and losing their limbs and there will be people who don’t recover to a normal life as a result”.

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