WILTSHIRE Air Ambulance will be reducing its operational hours to assist in moving Covid-19 patients between hospitals and working on the frontline at the new Nightingale Hospital in Bristol.

Up to five of the charity’s Critical Care Paramedics will be seconded to the South West patient transfer service and the 300-bed pop-up hospital at the University of the West of England.

The charity had previously been assisting the patient transfer service on an ad-hoc basis, as well as providing equipment.

As a result, Wiltshire Air Ambulance plans to temporarily alter its operational hours from two shifts covering 19 hours a day (8am-3am) to a single shift of 12 hours, running from 8am to 8pm.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance chief executive David Philpott said: “We commend the Critical Care Paramedics who have put themselves forward and volunteered for this particular service. This is very brave work indeed.

“They will either assist in the transfer service for COVID-19 patients between hospital ICUs (intensive care units) and the UWE Nightingale Hospital in Bristol when it opens, or they will work operationally on the frontline at the UWE Nightingale Hospital itself.

“Since the lockdown was introduced by the Government, there have been far fewer cars on the roads, city centres are quiet and bars, restaurants and hotels are all closed. Things have tended to be a lot quieter outside of core hours.

“With the quieter nights and fewer paramedics available, we have made the decision that, subject to the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the helicopter will fly a single shift for 12 hours a day from 8am to 8pm. That way we provide maximum effectiveness during this national emergency.”

Mr Philpott also confirmed that he has written to local MPs to ask for their support in an application to gain access to funding from the £750 million package set aside for frontline charities by the Government.

He added: “Like every other charity in the United Kingdom, the impacts of Coronavirus will most likely have a devastating impact on our finances.

“All of our summer events have been cancelled or postponed, our charity shops have closed their doors and understandably this has had a significant impact on our income.

“We were pleased to see the Chancellor announce a £750 million support fund for charities on the frontline delivering services during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are hopeful will be able to benefit from some of that emergency grant funding. Our national organisation, AA UK (Air Ambulances UK) have made a specific application on behalf of Air Ambulance charities and I’ve contacted our seven local MPs to ask for their support in the matter.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance is still running its lotteries, which provide vital funds, with a 30th birthday raffle due to begin in May.

Supporters can also donate to the charity’s virtual bucket collection HERE.