London’s Air Ambulance was established in 1989 in response to a report by The Royal College of Surgeons, which documented unnecessary deaths from trauma and criticised the care that seriously injured patients received in the UK. Shortly after its inception, The London Ambulance Service got on board, and to this day they provide paid paramedics to work on the helicopter.
Initially, LAA served the whole of The South-East of England and attended many high-profile incidents in the capital, including The Cannon Street Station Train Crash. On that day in 1991, the helicopter landed yards from the incident and was quickly able to bring 5 emergency teams to the scene. In 1993, the charity attended The Bishopsgate Bombing with the response being captured on film by ITV who were following the helicopter at the time.
On Christmas Eve 1994, the charity performed the world’s first open heart surgery at the roadside.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the charity as media coverage often painted them in a negative light. The public’s view always remained strong however and Virgin’s Richard Branson got onboard in 1997 and gave the charity a vital financial boost. Virgin purchased the helicopter and covered all operational costs.
The service continued to be enhanced with emergency cars being provided on the ground from 1999 and the charity’s high profile was enhanced as they provided vital medical assistance Paddington Train Crash in October the same year. The charity were also present at The Potters Bar Train Crash in 2002 and again provided vital medical assistance alongside London’s Ambulance Service. Many other emergencies in the capital have seen LAA be in attendance, including the 7/7 disaster in 2005 and terrorist attacks in 2017 on Westminster Bridge and Borough Market.
In 2006, London’s Air Ambulance launched their lifesaving lottery. To this day, the lottery remains the backbone of the income for the charity and has generated over £6m, an amount that continues to grow rapidly year-on-year.
In 2011, the charity moved Helipad to the very top of The Royal London Hospital. At 284ft, the Helipad is one of the highest in Europe and almost as big as Big Ben.
In 2014, the charity celebrated its 25th anniversary. During this period, over 30,000 patients had been treated.
London’s Air Ambulance continued to grow as incomes levels increased and in March 2014 they were boosted by a £1m contribution from HM Treasury for the purchase of a second helicopter. A year later, London Freemasons pledged a further £2m towards the purchasing of the second helicopter which duly arrived in January 2016.