VAT on Air Ambulance Fuel Payments

Part of United Kingdom Borders – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 11th July 2012.

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Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Shadow Minister (International Development) 5:10 pm, 11th July 2012

I, too, congratulate Guy Opperman and my hon. Friend the Member for York

Central (Hugh Bayley) on securing this debate. I also want to echo the congratulations to Ken Sharpe on working so vigorously to get so many people to sign up to the campaign.

I want to focus on the contribution of the London air ambulance service, which is based at the Royal London hospital in my constituency. It was established in 1989 and does incredible work across London, providing critical care to those with serious injuries. The London air ambulance service has completed 26,000 missions since 1989. In March, I visited the service and heard about the amazing work it does. In 2006, the last Labour Government committed £1 billion of much needed funding to rebuild the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, which included renovation of the helipad. In December 2011, the London air ambulance service moved to its new base, on the 17th floor of the refurbished hospital building.

Last Saturday we marked the seventh anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, when terrorists detonated bombs on three underground trains, including one near Aldgate in my constituency, and a London bus. We remembered the 52 innocent people who lost their lives in the London bombings and the many more whose lives were changed for ever. It is difficult to forget the harrowing scenes of devastation and chaos across London that day. I would like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to our emergency services, whose response and professionalism following the 7/7 attacks saved the lives of many. In particular, I would like to focus on the work of London’s air ambulance service. Following the attacks, London’s air ambulance staff, who had been attending a monthly clinical governance day, were deployed immediately. London’s air ambulance service flew 26 helicopter missions to deliver urgent medical care and supplies to the scenes of the incidents across London, and the service’s medical teams treated or triaged more than 700 people. The service rightly received praise for its incredible work and quick response in the wake of the attacks.

At the coroner’s inquest into the 7/7 London bombings, Lady Justice Hallet recommended that London’s air ambulance should have its “funding and capacity” reviewed and said:

“Despite current financial constraints, London’s Air Ambulance has, since its formation, provided an invaluable service to the capital.”

The service has been deployed to numerous major incidents in London, including not only the London bombings but the Bishopsgate and Aldwych terrorist attacks, as well as the Southall, Paddington and Potters Bar rail crashes. Yet despite those recommendations, the London air ambulance service has received no increase in major incident funding. The service believes additional funding for major incidents to be a necessity, which would enable it to expand major incident cover.

However, responding to major incidents is just one aspect of the service’s work. It also provides pre-hospital emergency care to victims of serious injuries, attending road traffic accidents, industrial accidents, and stabbings and shootings. The service treats more than 2,000 critically injured patients on the streets of London each year. Without it, patients would not receive the critical care they need.