Reliant on fund-raising support from the local community and businesses, Midlands Air Ambulance Charity has survived and prospered through the most challenging time in its history – leading to it being named the region’s Business of the Year
For any enterprise to be named Business of the Year in this year of all years has to be special. A recognition of success in the toughest of times in living memory, a testament to the ability to innovate in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. For that winner to be a charity is unprecedented.
Midlands Air Ambulance Charity has earned a reputation for being entrepreneurial. It has to be to raise the thousands of pounds needed each and every day to pay for its life-saving missions, either by helicopter or critical response car. While private supporters and donations are hugely important in helping fund the operation, business support is crucial – and we all know the devastating impact Covid has had on the Midlands commercial scene and, a result, its ability to help good causes.
But clever ideas, thinking outside the box and total commitment and hard work has helped MAAC weather the Covid storm in good shape and able to continue providing its vital, life-saving service. That achievement was honoured not once, but twice over when the charity was named Charity of the Year and then overall Business of the Year at the recent Asian Business Chamber of Commerce awards.
A delighted Hanna Sebright, the charity’s chief executive, said: “This would not have been possible without the ongoing resilience, hard work and dedication shown by all of the team. I would like to thank each and every one of the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity family for making this award win possible. I would also like to say thank you to the public for their support throughout both lockdown periods and their kind donations which continue to make our daily missions possible.”
You might be forgiven for thinking that demand for the air ambulance service would have dropped substantially during the various restrictions and lockdowns – less people commuting, more working from home, fewer opportunities to get out and about and in harm’s way.
Not the case, said the charity’s head of communications and marketing, Helen Stevens, who added people working from home faced heightened risk from accidents in other ways. For a start, figures show that the number of cyclists on Midlands’ roads has gone up by more than 400 per cent. “We’ve experienced more cardiac arrests, more cases of self-harming, more accidents from DIY – so the demand for Midlands Air Ambulance has stayed at near the same level,” she said. In ‘normal’ times, MAA attends an average 13 calls a day – six for the air ambulance helicopters, costing £2,500 a flight, and seven critical cars, at £224 a time. During the pandemic the average number of calls has been 10 a day.
The charity funds and operates three air ambulance helicopters and two critical care cars serving six Midlands counties, including the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, making up the largest air ambulance operating region in the UK. The charity also provides secondary cover to surrounding areas, such as Warwickshire and Mid Wales. Since 1991, MAA has responded to more than 60,000 missions, and each year it costs more than £10million to maintain the aircraft and the provision of the life-saving service. The charity doesn’t receive funding from the Government for its daily missions, relying entirely on the support and generosity of local people and businesses.
“The great thing about the award, other the excitement at winning, is that it helps to promote even further what we do to the business community,” said Helen. “We knew when the pandemic struck that we had to work on ways to remain in the hearts and minds of businesses and individuals. To that end, we’ve been doing a lot of media profiling with Sky and ITV.”
She added: “Then it was about adapting our fund-raising abilities to the new situation. Along with everyone else, we had to shut our charity shops and stop planned fund-raising events due to the pandemic restrictions, which meant a 50 per cent drop in fund-raising from our local communities.” To help make up some of the shortfall, the charity has been pushing even harder its successful online Lifesaving Lottery, which raises more than £3million a year. Helen said: “The fact is that we are always looking at developing and creating ideas to fund the service. While we are a charity, we take pride in the fact that we are run like a business.”
This business acumen was not lost on the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce awards judges. Mandy Canny, of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and head of the judging panel, said: “Midlands Air Ambulance Charity has shown exceptional work during the pandemic, continuing to deliver advanced pre-hospital patient care, while maintaining awareness of and support for the organisation.”