D&S column: the importance of our air ambulances

ONE of the amazing aspects of the Richmond constituency is its sheer size.

More than 70 miles long from end to end (that’s west of Hawes to just east of Great Ayton), it is one of the biggest in the country.

With the majority of this huge geographical area being rural, many parts are hard to reach. That presents challenges when providing services, including emergency medical care.

Conventional ambulances, backed up by paramedic units and first responders do a great job but sometimes a seriously ill or injured patient needs to be seen by a senior doctor - and fast. It can often be the difference between life and death.

That’s where the air ambulance comes in. In the Richmond constituency we are lucky to be served by two – the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the Great North Air Ambulance. Neither is based in the constituency but their aircraft fly hundreds of mercy missions here every year.

Last Friday, I had the privilege to visit the Great North Air Ambulance team at its base at Durham Tees Valley Airport. I was really impressed by the pilot, paramedics and doctors and the support people team who make their work possible. While there I also heard about the innovative work the team is doing to, in effect, take the emergency room kit and staff to the patient to provide that time-critical care as soon as possible.

Their professionalism was highly impressive and it is all funded by donations and fundraising – more than £6m last year.

The Government is keen to support the work of air ambulances. Last year it gave £1m of LIBOR funds (that’s fines paid by banks for breaking the law by manipulating interest rates) to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance to buy a new helicopter.

The Great North Air Ambulance has its own plans to develop its service with a new operational headquarters. LIBOR funds may be able to help here also and I’ll be doing my best to make sure this wonderful charity can get the help it needs to continue doing such a great job.

Last Friday I also called in on the type of business that I’d love to see more of. It’s young, growing and providing highly skilled jobs in one of our market towns.

The citysecret was established in Richmond just 16 years ago by Martin Worner, a former City software engineer who wanted to live and work in a beautiful part of the world and realised he didn’t have to be in a big city to do so.

Along with a team of 20 people in the former parish rooms of Richmond Methodist Church, he develops software used by city traders to do their work. The company provides software solutions for some of the biggest names in the global finance markets.

It also provides some great opportunities for young people looking to develop a career in a fast-growing, high-value sector of the economy – right here in Richmond. It was really encouraging to meet local youngsters who started their careers as apprentices at the city secret and are now highly valued members of the team.

I want to see more businesses like this and, in particular, more apprenticeships. It’s a subject I’ll return to shortly.