George Osborne revealed it was “the easiest thing in the world” for him to help fund a second emergency helicopter for London after meeting a schoolgirl saved from a brain injury by its medics on her first day at school.
The Chancellor used a Downing Street reception to declare London’s Air Ambulance as “such a special cause” as he backed its £6 million appeal for a second aircraft.
He heard how medical director Dr Gareth Davies and paramedic Lee Bevin saved the life of Alana McDonald, then five, when she fell off a playground wall in Barnet and suffered bleeding to her brain. She was given drugs to ease the pressure on her brain, put into an induced coma and flown to the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel for life-saving neurosurgery.
Mr Osborne said: “Alana and the doctor have made the most eloquent case for this brilliant charity. None of us know when we might need this most incredible service.
“There are so many people whose lives have been literally saved by the brilliant teams who have turned up, as the doctor says, incredibly quickly.
“Mary [Macleod MP] brought to my attention the campaign for a second helicopter in London and it was the easiest thing in the world to say: of course this is something we should be supporting. I hope the campaign goes well. Long may you keep flying and saving lives.”
Dr Davies said Alana, now 12, sustained a fracture to her skull when she fell in September 2008. “The really dangerous bit was that Alana had a blood clot at the back of her head,” he said. “Her heart had nearly stopped and she wasn’t breathing. Her pupils were fixed and dilated.
“If it wasn’t for the helicopter getting us there quickly and, more importantly, getting the patient back to hospital, we would have a very different story.”
The Chancellor announced £250,000 to help the air ambulance find new offices and provide improved staff training. He has already given £1 million towards the cost of a second helicopter. About £4.4 million still needs to be raised by July.
A second helicopter would allow the service to operate for longer during daylight hours and would prevent the loss of air cover for 55 days a year for aircraft maintenance. The charity, which has flown 32,000 missions since its launch in 1989, can be supported at yourhelicopter.london