On Tuesday, 12th September Magpas Air Ambulance staff, clinicians, former patients and supporters witnessed an important milestone in the charity’s history as HRH The Princess Royal opened the new charity airbase.
The lifesaving charity has been working to build its new home for the past six years: a purpose-built airbase, headquarters and training centre in Alconbury Weald, Cambridgeshire.
The building, designed by MCW architects and constructed by Lindum, includes a dedicated state-of-the-art training centre to train the next generation of pre-hospital emergency doctors and paramedics; is equipped for 24/7 operations with well-being and rest facilities for crew and clinicians; and has new community and patient facilities on site—including a new dedicated space for patients and their families to visit the charity and meet with the clinicians that treated them, away from the bustle of day-to-day operations.
To ensure it maximises renewable energy, the building has been designed with the approach of ‘be lean, be clean and be green’. This is achieved through integrated design measures such as solar shading and natural ventilation through louvres, and PV panels on the roof.
The location of the new airbase is situated closer to the region’s major trunk roads, which will reduce vehicle dispatch times by up to 15 minutes, and the co-location of the charity’s operations and support staff—who currently work across two sites—will be more efficient: reducing charity overheads and improving environmental impact.
HRH The Princess Royal became Magpas Air Ambulance’s Patron after she visited the charity’s previous operations base in February 2020, and heard about the need for the service to find a new home. In 2021, the charity’s 50th year of operations, HRH launched the Future 50 Appeal aimed at raising the funding needed to complete the building. And in February of this year, HRH unveiled a cornerstone to mark the ongoing development of the project.
However, Tuesday’s visit from The Princess Royal is undoubtedly the most exciting yet as HRH opens the new base open for Magpas Air Ambulance to begin the process of moving their operations and lifesaving service to the state-of-the-art airbase and headquarters.
Daryl Brown MBE DL, the charity’s Chief Executive Officer, said “It was an honour to welcome our Patron HRH The Princess Royal to the site of our new base at Alconbury Weald, and show her around the building she’s been so pivotal in helping us achieve.
“After she unveiled the plaque, which will become a treasured part of our building alongside the cornerstone, we were delighted to see her passion for the service we provide.
“It’s incredibly exciting to see, what has been a plan for a very long time, finally come to fruition. Magpas Air Ambulance has treated over 70,000 patients in the past 50 years, and this new building will be fundamental to our service going forward saving thousands more lives and keeping families together for generations to come.”
Magpas Air Ambulance is one of the first emergency medical charities of its kind in the UK, initially set up by two GPs in 1971. The new airbase is an important milestone in its 50-year pursuit to improve emergency care for patients across the region. However, for the charity that has experienced the highest number of activations in six years, the hard work has just begun. Natalie Church, the charity’s Director of Operations who led the new base development explains, “In addition to enhancing our service, the new building provides so many more opportunities to increase the understanding of our work and teach the community lifesaving skills such as CPR. For Magaps Air Ambulance this is a momentous day, however our hard work continues as we look to develop our services further, push to raise the £6million needed keep us flying every year, and continue to save lives 24/7.”