Monday, 08 August 2022

Henley Rotary Club

MEMBERS welcomed a representative of the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance to their twilight meeting at the Red Lion Hotel on Tuesday last week.

Graham Forster, a volunteer for 16 years, had travelled from Bracknell to give Rotarians an overview of the charity which they have supported several times in the past.

Mr Forster, whose day job is in health and safety and who previously volunteered for many years with St John Ambulance, told how the air ambulance came into being in 1999 with an injection of cash from the Automobile Association, which was supporting five other similar charities. It became incorporated in 2002.

In 2007 the helicopter’s base was relocated from White Waltham to RAF Benson and in 2008 the original aircraft was replaced by an EC135 Eurocopter with the last three registration letters BOB, reflecting the three counties it serves — Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

The new helicopter is large enough to be able to carry an accompanying relative as well as the injured person, which is particularly helpful if a child is involved. In addition, it lands on skids, not wheels.

Mr Forster gave a splendidly alliterative description of the places where it could land, taking into account size, shape, surface, slope (not more than 15 degrees) and surroundings, for example, power lines which are clearly visible from the ground but not so distinguishable from the air.

A recent survey of the 16,500 missions undertaken since 1999 showed that a third of those people who were rescued would not have survived without being airlifted.

Mr Forster emphasised the absolute necessity to continue fund-raising, pointing out that the Government, through the NHS, only paid the salary of the paramedics working with the crews.

All other expenditure, such as the supply of night vision goggles costing £18,000 per pair, has to be raised by the charity.

He detailed the various methods of fund-raising, including the weekly lottery, which raised £3.9 million last year.

There were also “bag-it-up” clothes recycling and 3,000 yellow collection boxes, while Gift Aid reclamation of tax last year on donations raised £75,000.

After questions, the club’s president-elect, Maria Bunina, thanked Mr Forster for his talk and assured him that Henley Rotarians would continue to support the charity.

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