IN a milestone year for Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) marking 25 years of saving lives, colleagues and friends have paid tribute to CEO, Jane Gurney, as she reaches 20 years of loyal service with the charity.
At a special event held today (Thursday 17th August) at Earls Colne Business Park, members of the EHAAT ‘family’ joined Jane in celebrating not only her contribution to the charity, but also to the wider air ambulance sector nationally. As one of the longest-serving CEOs of a UK air ambulance, she was also a Director for the Association of Air Ambulances from 2013 to 2019, and from 2016 to 2020, she was a Trustee on AAUK’s Board, which supports 21 air ambulances around the country. A very special moment for Jane professionally, was when she received an honorary degree from the University of Essex last year, in recognition of her dedication to expand and improve pre-hospital care for those in need.
Jane’s career with EHAAT started in 2003, when she joined the ‘driven and enthusiastic’ small team that were running Essex Air Ambulance (EAA) out of a small side room at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.
Jane explains, “I remember waiting in EAA’s reception and overhearing the paramedics talking about this ‘flying ambulance’. I thought it was just absolutely amazing and sounded so inspirational.
“I quickly knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. They desperately needed income, and as my previous job was Sponsorship and Events Manager in media, I knew I had the skills to help them, so I took on the role of Business Development Manager.”
Over the following years Jane progressed into management and was appointed as CEO in 2009. She has led the team and the charity through many milestones which have included: the launch of Herts Air Ambulance in 2007 and then its amalgamation with EAA to form Essex & Herts Air Ambulance; the establishment of its two dedicated airbases and visitor centres at Earls Colne in 2011, and North Weald in 2021; the purchase of the charity’s first wholly owned AW169 helicopter in 2017, and the charity achieving an ‘outstanding overall’ rating by the Care Quality Commission in 2022. Another immensely proud moment was hosting a visit by the former Earl and Countess of Wessex, Edward and Sophie, to EHAAT’s North Weald airbase.
During Jane’s tenure, the charity has also taken massive steps forward in achieving its aim; to provide the highest possible standards of pre-hospital clinical care. Highlights have included: In 2008, doctors becoming part of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) teams flying on missions, enabling more advanced clinical interventions to be delivered at the scene; starting to carry blood products on board in 2019, and more recently the launch of the Centre for Excellence, which aims to create a world-leading community through which pre-hospital care is developed to achieve the best possible outcomes for all patients.
Dr Gareth Davies, Senior Medical Advisor at EHAAT, has been with the charity from its infancy. He said, “All of those who have worked with Jane over the years recognise her passion, drive and commitment. They have witnessed her compassion and support for the staff and the respect she has displayed for the partners in the external health economy. But only a few of us that are older, will have seen and recognise Jane’s commitment to our industry and how she helped shape the world we all live in today. Jane and a few of her industry colleagues set about 20 years ago setting the benchmarks for all the Air Ambulance Services in the UK today. What was a few small-scale charities working alongside NHS ambulance services 20 years ago is now an industry where charities are fully blown independent health care organisations, where only the highest CQC gradings will suffice. From the earliest days, Jane has been committed to professionalism at every level. Always there for her peers and with a willingness to support new CEO’s coming to join our community. She has championed the importance of clinical governance in a way the NHS still finds difficult today and had the instinct and vision to support the clinician’s aspiration of the future with EHAAT’s Centre for Excellence. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside Jane over the last 20 years.”
Air Ambulances UK CEO, Simmy Akhtar, said, “Huge congratulations to Jane on her 20th anniversary with Essex & Herts Air Ambulance. Jane devoted six impactful years as a director of the national organisation and was passionate about championing and representing the invaluable work of the air ambulance community at a national level. Her tireless efforts have significantly shaped the Annual Conference and Awards of Excellence into the remarkable event it stands at today. Jane’s passion, unwavering commitment, and remarkable contributions continue to inspire the air ambulance sector and it is a pleasure to continue to work alongside Jane as we continue to collaborate on national issues.”
Jonathan Trower, Chair of Trustees at EHAAT added, “The fact that the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust has reached its 25th anniversary in such excellent health is, in no small measure, down to the determined leadership of Jane Gurney. So many congratulations are due to her on the 20th anniversary of her first employment by the charity. The progress that we have made over the last 20 years is remarkable and I know how much more Jane can achieve in the years to come”.
However, perhaps the last words should come from Jane herself. She is humbled by the kind words and recognition of the impact she has made saying, “We have come a long way since our story began, and from our airbases at Earls Colne and North Weald, today we serve the communities of Essex, Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas. We have a Donation Centre in Stevenage and nine charity shops located in the very heart of our local communities. We have grown to over 140 team members and over 400 volunteers. Last year, we carried out 2,582 missions, 1,346 by air ambulance and 1,235 via our fleet of rapid response vehicles.
“It has been a true privilege to lead Essex & Herts Air Ambulance through so many milestones over the years, and to work alongside our amazing supporters, our dedicated staff and volunteers and our highly skilled critical care teams. However, it goes without saying our patients and their families are the ones who truly inspire me and my team the most, to continue to deliver our life saving service today and into the future. Thank you to everyone who has been on this incredible journey with me – it has been an amazing privilege to be part of this very special charity and myself and the team look forward to many more rewarding years ahead.”
To find out more or to donate visit www.ehaat.org.