Transport Minister Gives Reassurance Over Medical Evacuations From Scilly

A Sikhorsky S-92 helicopter

A Sikorsky S-92 helicopter

The Minister for Transport has given her reassurance that medical evacuations from Scilly will not be affected when a private contractor takes over search and rescue operations in 2017.

Baroness Kramer was responding in the House of Lords on Monday to a written question from Lord Berkeley.

The Labour peer is a member of the transport action group FRIST and he regularly visits the islands

The Baroness said Bristow Helicopters, the company that will operate the new UK search and rescue service, will continue to provide cover for emergency evacuations from the islands.

These will be to the same standard as the military provides today.

The service will use newer Sikorsky S92 aircraft, operating from Newquay, instead of Culdrose.

Baroness Kramer said the S92s are some of the most modern search and rescue helicopters available, and can fly further and faster than the current Royal Navy Sea Kings.

7 Responses to Transport Minister Gives Reassurance Over Medical Evacuations From Scilly

  1. Newquaygreen January 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Is the air ambulance not a private provider albeit a charity but certainly not state run.
    If the the private contractor is contracted to provide a service each time the ambulatory service demands it then why would it not do what it says?

  2. Binky January 18, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Great to see such knowledge of and confidence in the private sector, however Mr Nobbs is correct in his analysis of the priorities of the capitalist machine. Its not about the capacity of the machines or the dedication of highly trained staff, its about the making of money.

    We rely on this service when the air ambulance service is unavailable, so will have to trust that the new private operator has been signed up to a contract that ensures that they remain as dedicated to service provision as the public operator has been for many years.

    • JARG January 18, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Given that the primary role of the Search and Rescue helicopters is Search and Rescue rather than Medical Evacuation. I would suggest that at least some over here rely on this service most of the time, not just when the Air Ambulance is not available.

      Saying that the aim of a company is to make money is stating the obvious, if it wasn’t they would not be in business. As I said below the focus should be on the contract terms and on ensuring that the performance of the contractor is monitored against them. If you are concerned that that the contract terms might not be rigorous enough then feel free to read through!

      It is easy to sit behind a computer and predict disaster looming, but backing it up with evidence is harder. There have been civilian contractors running SAR helicopters in the UK since 1971, and the Coastguard has been contracting Civilian helicopters for SAR since 1983. As far as I am aware there has been no case of the Coastguard having to exercise a ‘step-in’ clause to take over any part of its service. Even searches on the internet cannot turn up any issues.

      Plenty of other things to worry about, MEDIVAC provision after the change to civilian SAR is not high up my list.

  3. Mr N Nobbs January 17, 2014 at 12:09 am

    The first thing a private contractor will do is employ an accountant to cut costs in order to maximise profit, that’s how private companys and capitalism works.
    Anyone who thinks that a private company will do an equal or better job than the Royal navy is delusional.
    There is an election next year, I suggest that any prospective suit canvassing for your vote should be asked where they stand on this issue.

    • JARG January 17, 2014 at 10:19 am

      “Anyone who thinks that a private company will do an equal or better job than the Royal navy is delusional”

      I’ve heard some **** on here but this comment is up there.!

      I’m assuming that you are talking about the Logistics and Management side of the service. The management of the MOD/RN is not optimised to provide an efficient SAR service, the whole MOD system wastes a lot of money. This is not always the fault of individual ‘managers’ but is indicative of the state of the whole defence system.
      I find it very hard to believe that a private company will not provide a much more cost efficient service.

      The contract has set service levels that the contractor has to maintain, so trying to suggest that they can ‘reduce’ the level of service to save money is more ****. If they can find ways to provide the required service more efficiently and so make more profit, then yes that is how capitalism works. If they are able to cut services, then that says more about the oversight of the contract than about the company. There have been 4 Coastguard SAR helicopters operated by a private company for a number of years at Stornoway, Shetland, Portland and Lee-on-the-Solent so this is not anything new.

      An S-92 is definitely not a step down from a Sea King, so no loss of capability there.

      And just in case you were commenting on the quality and dedication of a crew who are working for a private company then I would suggest you look into the “Billy Deacon Search and Rescue Memorial Trophy” .
      It is awarded each year to a Winch-man / Winch Operator who has displayed extreme courage and dedication, this includes Navy, RAF, Coastguard and other commercial crews, the award committee is chaired by the RNLI.
      Billy Deacon was a winch man working for Bristow’s who lost his life remaining on a ship to ensure all the crew were rescued, he was posthumously awarded the George Medal.
      Winners over the last few years:
      2012 – Andrew Cowx, Paul Walters (Bond Helicopters)
      2011 – Sgt Tony Russel (Royal Navy)
      2010 – Simon OMahony, David Peel (CHC Helicopters)
      2009 – Phil Warrington (CHC Helicopters)

    • Tom January 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      CHC is one of the biggest SAR providers world wide, most of the Pilots, rear seats, and winchman currently working in SAR for the Royal Navy and RAF have CV’s in with CHC, waiting to make the jump to the private sector.
      This will not be a step down in cover, this will be a step up, as the current crews will be flying all-weather capable S92’s. This is like comparing a 1960’s morris minor to a 2014 BMW, safer, faster, more capable and much more efficient than the Sea King.

  4. Carol Clarke January 15, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Healthwatch have raised concerns with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Jane Hurd is attending a ‘stakeholder briefing’ at Newquay on 16/01 and will put questions. We will post any update on our website in due course.