Wiltshire Air Ambulance

Louise Cox, a critical- care paramedic, explains how training and resources can mean the difference between life and death

Critical-care paramedic responder Louise Cox says, “The first moments after an injury or illness are crucial to a patient’s recovery.” Louise, 42, works for Wiltshire Air Ambulance, a helicopter service that helps victims of some of the most devastating accidents and critical illnesses in Wiltshire and the south-west of England. “The helicopter can get to anywhere in Wiltshire within 11 minutes and to a trauma centre in Bristol, Oxford or Southampton in approximately 20 minutes,” she says. “I’m part of a team which supports a patient from the moment of injury or illness. We can deal with the impact on any bystanders, deliver essential first aid, and then get them to hospital.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance operates one helicopter predominantly for the people of Wiltshire but it works in conjunction with South Western Ambulance Service, which has six helicopters, to cover a broader area where necessary.

“This is a rural area and we regularly encounter accidents involving sporting incidents and horses as well as road traffic accidents, often in difficult-to-access locations,” she says. “There are medical emergencies such as heart attacks, cardiac arrests and strokes, when additional clinical support is required in the quickest time. We also carry blood products to stabilise a patient who’s suffering from blood loss following trauma. Administering a blood transfusion to a patient can be difficult while getting to hospital as fast as possible, but it can make a huge difference to their survival. We can only accommodate one patient and one seated person, which is ideal for when we have an injured child so we can take a parent too.”

When Louise isn’t flying, she’s working with her team practising what are known as ‘high-stakes, low-frequency’ incidents in simulated environments. “We essentially have to practise our skills in all scenarios in order to prepare. It’s not just about the delivery of the clinical skills. It’s also about how we communicate as a team and how we operate the equipment,” she says. “At our new airbase we have an immersive simulation suite for critical-care training for paramedics and doctors. The room is temperature- controlled and can be set as low as 5°C and as high as 24°C – in the warmest temperatures the team have to work extra hard to prevent overheating, and in the cold their fine motor skills will be challenged when carrying out surgical procedures and the patient will have to
be monitored for signs of hypothermia. The surfaces of this high-tech suite react to touch, and sights and sounds make it an extremely realistic approximation of an incident we  may encounter.

To make it even more realistic we use projected images, such as a landscape or
moving traffic or even a nightclub with subdued lighting and loud music – almost anything can be simulated. This facility trains paramedics to treat the patient in any environment they walk into.”

In the past, Louise says, paramedics had to practise their life-saving skills on hard-bodied manikins, which, she admits, “weren’t very realistic”. But now, money from The Candis Big Give and active fundraising has meant that the paramedics can train with lifecast simulation manikins, which are incredibly authentic and made from silicone and have articulating skeletons and joints. The baby and child manikins look, feel and weigh the same as their human counterparts, while the adult versions are slightly lighter than theirs, but the limbs and head are weighted so that they move in a realistic way. Louise explains, “We can use our airway tools for oxygenation and ventilation and the chest of the manikin will rise, it’s so incredibly realistic. We can even simulate the use of drugs and give CPR. And we can even apply make-up to look like injuries appropriate to the scenario.” What’s more, the new manikins don’t just help medics to learn technical skills. “Because the manikins look and feel like a real person, they draw an emotional response,” Louise says, “which is very important when practising the best care for vulnerable patients.”

Louise has been an air ambulance paramedic for ten years, after spending a decade in the regular ambulance service. She says Wiltshire Air Ambulance is not funded directly by the Government and does not receive National Lottery grants. It costs £3.75 million per year to keep the air ambulance service available. “It’s not easy to fund this service as a charity,” she says, “but the upside is that it does give us autonomy.”

Louise is proud of the life-saving skills of the team. “Working for this charity is a privilege,” she says. “It’s tough and challenging, but we work together and it’s extremely rewarding.”

She adds, “Sometimes, our patients get in touch because they want to give something back to show their appreciation. Some of them become ambassadors for the charity, raising awareness from first-hand experience, which is great. It’s so rewarding to get positive feedback and to hear that a patient is on the road to recovery. I’m very privileged to be part of such a dedicated team that is committed to excellence. And I love my job – it enables us to help people when they need it the most.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance


➸ Funds raised in The Candis Big Give will go towards a lifecast clinical patient simulation system, which uses true-to-life manikins to enable critical-care paramedics to develop their specialist skills. This will continue to allow the charity to provide an unparalleled air ambulance service to the people of Wiltshire and its surrounding areas.


In 2019, Candis Club will donate at least £250,000 from members’ magazine subscription revenue to health charities taking part in The Candis Big Give. Any additional funds will go to charities at the discretion of the General Committee of Candis Club.


We never forget it’s YOUR subscriptions that enable Candis Club to give huge amounts to charities. Our running total shows how much


to the Cancer and Polio Research Fund (1962 to 2002)


to the National Asthma Campaign (1990 to 2002)


to Marie Curie (1998 to 2012)


to Macmillan Cancer Support (1993 to 2013)


to Bliss, the special care baby charity (1990 to 2009)


to Liverpool University’s Cancer Tissue Bank Research Centre (1989 to 1993)


to the British Heart Foundation (2002 to 2008)


to local groups via the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) (1990 to 2009)


to ICAN (1989)


to Tommy’s, the baby charity (2006 to 2009)


to Children’s Hospices UK (2008 to 2010)


to charities in The Candis Big Give




What it does: Offers supports to children under five with additional needs and disabilities.
Candis Big Give project: Money raised will fund the charity’s Learning through Play project.

Location: BerkshireTotal raised: £7,019


What it does: Supports kidney patients to improve health and care.Candis Big Give project: To fund breaks for patients aged 9-30.Location: National
Total raised: £8,924


What it does: Helps people with learning disabilities.
Candis Big Give project: To encourage women at risk of being overweight to improve their health and well-being.

Location: LondonTotal raised: £16,875

What it does: Offers support and respite holidays to seriously ill children and their families.
Candis Big Give project:
To provide families of seriously ill children with outreach support in the community, hopsital, home and at its new Family Outreach and Respite centre

Location: Berkshire

Total raised: £27,000


What it does: Delivers education, rehabilitation and community services to children with brain injury.Candis Big Give project: To provide play activities to children with brain injuries and neurodisability.Location: Surrey

Total raised: £51,355


What it does: Gives terminally ill children nursing care in their homes.Candis Big Give project: To offer respite and palliative care and support to more families.

Location: Bristol and the city’s surrounding areas
Total raised: £33,496

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