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Charity air ambulance soars to help of record number of casualties after launching new Aberdeen aircraft

Lead paramedic Ewan Littlejohn and team-mate Laura McAllister at Aberdeen International Airport.
Lead paramedic Ewan Littlejohn and team-mate Laura McAllister at Aberdeen International Airport.

A life-saving air ambulance charity soared to the rescue of a record number of casualties in 2020 after launching a new helicopter in the north-east.

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) already had a facility outside Perth, and doubled its capacity last April with a new Aberdeen-based aircraft.

The bright-yellow machine has become a common fixture over the region, and new figures have shown exactly how busy its first eight months were – despite lockdown having an effect on how many people were out and about.

Throughout the past year, the organisation flew paramedics to more time-critical emergencies than ever before, bringing a record number of seriously ill and injured patients to hospital from every part of the country.

The SCAA crews deployed to 460 life-threatening emergencies – a 31% increase on the previous year’s workload.

Responses to serious trauma cases increased by 41% – accounting for 47% of all the call-outs with a total of 217.

Of those emergencies, 99 involved tending to people who had been injured in crashes.

In addition to airlifting patients to hospital, SCAA’s paramedics were on scene to treat and assist in cases ranging from major incidents where many people were injured to helping individuals who fell ill in rural areas.

The majority of emergencies attended by the charity’s distinctive air ambulance helicopters were in the Grampian health board area at 27%.

Tayside accounted for 25% of the call-outs while 19% happened in the Highlands.

David Craig, chief executive at SCAA, said: “Lockdown has proved challenging for SCAA – as it has for everyone.

“But launching Helimed 79 has helped us take more care, more quickly, to more people throughout Scotland.”

He added: “SCAA continues to save and improve lives throughout the whole country and Helimed 79’s impressive work – especially in the north-east and the far north of Scotland – has seen us return record statistics during a particularly challenging year.

“Every time our helicopters take off, they are fuelled by the generous donations of the people of Scotland who keep us in the air.

“It’s their continued support that will ensure our two emergency response crews can continue their life-saving work and we’re enormously grateful to everyone who contributes.”

During 2020, SCAA was airborne for a total of more than 461 hours as it reached all corners of Scotland.

The crews’ workload last year included 84 cardiac-related emergencies, 21 strokes, 62 falls, 17 industrial accidents, including agricultural, and six emergencies involving burns.

A further 60 call-outs involved air transfers from remote or island locations to advanced mainland hospital care – where hours were saved on journey times for vulnerable patients.

Patients helped by SCAA ranged from babies to the elderly, with 60% being adults aged 18-64 and 32% involving pensioners.

The 2020 mission log shows that the emergency response helicopter’s busiest month was August, while Fridays had the greatest demand for the charity service.

A total of 13 hospitals from Orkney to Newcastle were visited by SCAA to hand over seriously sick and injured patients.

Responding by both land as well as air, the charity’s paramedics attended 65 emergencies in their Rapid Response Vehicle – 14% of the year’s call outs.


Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance has made a huge impact since 2013, saving lives and preventing suffering.

That is why the P&J campaigned successfully for SCAA’s second helicopter to be based in our region.

The countdown is now on for the aircraft – call sign Helimed 79 – to start flying missions from Aberdeen Airport.

But this is an emergency service that relies entirely on donations.

Each call-out costs about £2,500 and SCAA needs P&J readers to help hit its £6million target and get things off to a successful start.

So please do anything you can to raise those funds and show that We’re Backing Helimed 79.


Ways to donate to SCAA

  • Website: www.scaa.org.uk/donate
  • Text: Text ‘SCAA’ and the amount to 70085
  • Phone: 03001231111
  • Cheques: Made payable to ‘SCAA’ or ‘Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance’ and sent to: Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA), The Control Tower, Perth Airport, Scone, PH2 6PL

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