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27th December 2019

OBE for Wales Air Ambulance Charity CEO

BY: Nathan Spackman

The Chief Executive of the Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) Charity, Angela Hughes, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours List for her committed leadership and determination towards the advancement of the only dedicated patient emergency air service in Wales.

Angela was the first WAA employee appointed by the Board of Trustees in 2002 and it was her responsibility to establish WAA as an all-Wales charity. Angela’s first target was to raise £1 million for the Charity’s five-day, one-helicopter service based in Swansea, with just her car and phone.

From this initial fundraising target, WAA now raises the £6.5m needed every year to maintain the current helicopter operation. At present, the Charity has four helicopters based across Wales and is the largest air ambulance operation in the UK. WAA has surpassed 30,000 missions since the first helicopter took to the sky.

Over the years, Angela has led a Charity that has raised over £100 million in a country with a population of just three million.

WAA now has more than 110 staff and 650 volunteers across the country. They support its four offices, four airbases, a social enterprise café in North Wales (Café HEMS) and eighteen retail shops.

Angela said: “This is a truly humbling honour and one which reflects the hard work and dedication of many people over the past eighteen years. This Charity has grown and continues to thrive thanks to the unbelievable generosity of the Welsh public, our skilful medics and pilots, and the Charity’s dedicated staff, trustees and volunteers, who are committed to our aim of saving time and saving lives.

“This honour is also a testament to the late Bob Palmer, founder and former chairman of WAA. It was his vision of an air ambulance service for Wales that has led us to where we are today.”

With the ongoing and radical transformation of pre-hospital care in Wales, NHS and government leaders have spoken about WAA being an integral part of their current and future strategies. This has included the introduction of a pioneering programme of healthcare in Wales called the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) – also known as the ‘Welsh Flying Medics’.

Working in partnership with Welsh Government ministers, NHS Wales and a pool of passionate doctors, the Charity now has a dedicated team of senior consultants, critical care practitioners (CCPs) and helicopter transfer practitioners (HTPs) on board its helicopters. The service, which takes the emergency room to the patient, delivers emergency treatments usually not available outside of a hospital environment. The medics are able to conduct blood transfusions, administer anaesthetics, offer strong painkillers, and conduct a range of medical procedures – all at the scene of an incident. In addition, patients are airlifted to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury, saving valuable time.

The Charity has also successfully established the national Children’s Wales Air Ambulance. This service supports the transfer of ill or injured Welsh babies and children between specialist hospitals across the UK.

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