New home for Great North Air Ambulance

Grahame Pickering MBE, centre, with paramedics Ian Grey (left) and Colin Clark (right) at the site of the charity's new base.

Work has begun on converting a former industrial site into a “world-class” clinical training facility and new base for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS).

GNAAS said its new base at Urlay Nook, Eaglescliffe would allow its pre-hospital medicine courses to expand resulting in lives saved in this region and beyond.

GNAAS will move its helicopters, clinical team and charity staff to the site of the former Elementis works when the project is complete. The first phase began this week as Tolent Construction moved onto the site.

GNAAS chief executive, Grahame Pickering MBE, said: “We are already well known for the exceptional level of care we provide, but this will give us the foundation on which to improve even further.

“As well as accommodating our aircrew and charity staff, the centre will provide education and training for the growing number of medical professionals in the UK and overseas wishing to improve upon their own skills and knowledge in this relatively new speciality.

“Through training others and developing our own service, we will save more lives in our area and beyond. Additionally, the revenue it generates will be spent on improving our front-line care even further.”

The first phase of work on site involves adapting the pre-existing office block to incorporate the centre of excellence’s training and research, and to develop an operations room for the air ambulance service.

Subsequently, a new hangar will be built for the charity’s aircraft. The latter phase is expected to begin later this year, meaning that GNAAS will continue to operate out of Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) in the meantime.

Mr Pickering said the move to relocate staff from three of the charity’s sites – Darlington town centre, Newton Aycliffe and DTVA – would result in rent savings alone of £120,000 a year.

He added: “We are always careful with our money and so we are pleased to be making a move that will leave us in a better position. But as ever, we still need the support of the public in keeping our aircraft and crew flying across the region.”

As well as Tolent Construction, GNAAS is working alongside Niven Architects, Muckle LLP, s h e d,  Driver Group and JH Partners in delivering the project.

The costs are being met by grants, reserves and ongoing fundraising.