Published on: 03 May 2013
EVERYONE knows just how important the air ambulance is in saving the lives of people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. But did you know the area’s helicopter isn’t paid for by the NHS?
It may come as a surprise to find out the regional flying A&E unit relies completely on donations.
The helicopter and medical staff are funded through the Filton-based Great Western Air Ambulance Charity but there is a very real danger its ageing helicopter will soon be too old to use as an air ambulance.
But one Downend couple is hoping to change this and have thrown their weight behind a huge fundraising drive to raise cash to lease a newer model.
Anne and Andrew Newbery came up with the idea of raising money through quiz nights about a year ago following a horse riding accident where Anne’s goddaughter had to be rescued by the air ambulance.
They are now involved in the charity’s Movin’ On Up campaign to raise £250,000 to replace the Bölkow 105 helicopter with a new Eurocopter EC 135.
Since the end of last year the couple has been busy writing and hosting quiz nights at various pubs and social clubs in the area.
Money is raised via collection tins and many winning teams donate their prize money to GWAAC.
The quizzes are made up of a picture round and six rounds of various topics which can include general knowledge, sport, music, people and places, food and drink, animals and creatures. They also host themed quizzes for occasions such as Halloween and Christmas.
Anne is hoping people in Downend will turn up in force to support the cause and take the charity one step closer to its goal.
Anne, 48, who runs Downend-based Panda Electric Services with 49-year-old Andrew, said: “We felt we had time on our hands and wanted to do something ethical. We met up with one of the fundraisers from GWAAC and mentioned our idea about running quiz nights to help raise money and she said they would love for us to take them on.
“They desperately need a new air ambulance. We went over to their base in Filton and the air ambulance is tiny – it’s smaller than my car!
“The quizzes have gone from strength to strength. Some are weekly, some are fortnightly and others once a month. We have about 22 venues that have our quizzes regularly.
“When we did our first quiz in October at the Beaufort Hunt in Downend it was really quiet but the one we did a few weeks ago was packed. Andrew was hosting and rang me because he had run out of quiz papers. I had to dash round with more.
“On the reverse of the score sheets we have information about the air ambulance and how they receive no funding from the Government, the NHS or the lottery. They have to raise it all themselves and it’s quite a significant amount of money to get them up in air all the time. The yearly costs are £1.5 million. It’s a lot of money.
“It’s amazing the number of people you talk to, especially when hosting the quizzes, who know somebody who has benefited from the air ambulance. It’s a very well loved and treasured charity.”
The GWAAC is the last air ambulance charity in the UK to rely on an aircraft which was designed in the 1960s.
At the time, the vehicle was considered state-of-the-art but technology has moved on and it is now too small, slow and less secure than modern helicopters.
The Eurocopter EC 135 is bigger and more flexible but, more importantly, would enable the emergency team to reach patients more quickly.
If you would like to be added to Anne and Andrew’s mailing list for future events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday May 1
A curry and quiz night at Ye Olde Inne, Westerleigh. For more information contact Paul on 01454 324440. Booking may be required as last one was popular.
Wednesday May 8
Fun quiz night at the Star, Pucklechurch, 8pm. For more information call Sean on 0117 937 2391
Thursday May 16
Quiz night at the George & Dragon, Winterbourne, 8pm. For more information call Dave on 07542 012122
Saturday May 25
Quiz evening at the Beaufort Hunt, Downend, 8pm. For more information call Adrian on 0117 956 3420.