Row erupts over air ambulance service

THE region’s life-saving air ambulance has been caught up in a row over privatisation

THE region’s life-saving air ambulance has been caught up in a row over privatisation.

Huntingdonshire-based emergency medical charity Magpas has accused the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) from going behind its back by replacing the charity’s dedicated team of doctors and paramedics with private contractors.

EAAA has hit back, saying Magpas effectively ruptured their partnership by refusing to take part in a reorganisation tender process, forcing them to hire the EMSC firm instead.

The two organisations had been working hand in hand, providing life-saving emergency care to injured people before transporting them to hospital or handing them over to land abulance crews.

The split has angered both sides, with Magpas fighting to remain a part of the emergency care for East Anglia.

The air ambulance is changing the way it operates, which includes a relocation from Wyton to Marshall Airport in Cambridge, as well as a change in medics.

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However, Magpas chief operating officer Daryl Brown warned: “We will do everything in our power to protect the vital service our wonderful medics provide.

“What we cannot do is stand by and allow the East Anglian charity to displace our crucial Helimedix teams.”

It means Magpas’ air operation could be grounded and Magpas doctor Anne Booth believes the consequences would be severe: “We are going to lose patients and there will be people dying and losing their limbs.

“There will be people who don’t recover to a normal life as a result.”

Magpas accused the EAAA on Tuesday (October 26) of lifting the lid on “covert plans” to end their long-standing arrangement.

“This we feel would be a huge retrograde step in service delivery and patient care because the private company isn’t required to provide the same level of cover and expertise,” the charity said.

But EAAA said there was a “considered tender process in which Magpas was invited to participate but declined”.

It said it needed to make sure doctors were on board all flights from its Anglia One and Anglia Two aircraft and added: “While we have the highest respect for Magpas doctors, this is something we have found to be unsustainable working with Magpas’ volunteer based organisation.”

Magpas said EAAA had “misled Magpas about their intentions”.

“Senior staff have briefed against Magpas and misrepresented what we do in order to justify their privatisation decision,” it alleged.

“Contrary to its claims, working with Magpas is not free,” an EAAA spokesman replied. “While the organisation’s doctors are volunteers, we do have to bear other costs to work with it.”

These include �132,000 to transport the Anglia Two aircraft between its base at Marshall Airport and RAF Wyton, as well as �100,000 a year to pay for pilots and flight vehicles when no Magpas crew is available.

In response, Magpas says: “Everyone should be aware these services are funded by donors and therefore they should have a say in the quality and delivery of their services across the region.”