When a medical emergency arises that requires some form of assistance a call will generally be placed to the appropriate emergency control centre within that country. In the UK, people requiring help from any of the emergency services will dial 999. The control centre will contact the relevant service or services and the decision about the type of unit they dispatch will be made depending on the individual circumstances of the emergency. Whether or not a patient requires medical air transportation is a judgment made by the particular authorities and is not something that the patient will need to consider.
However, the main thing that people need to take into consideration in regard to medical air transportation is how this service is funded. In the United Kingdom there are several ways that the cost of this service is absorbed. These include:
• Government Funded: There are a number of air ambulance services that are funded through the National Health Service (NHS). When a patient is covered through the NHS and requires their air ambulance service the costs of this service is generally paid for by the relevant government bodies.
• Privately Funded: When a patient is in need of an air ambulance and is not covered by the NHS then they may be required to absorb the costs of this service themselves or through their insurance company if they have such coverage. In most cases where the air ambulance service is privately funded, payment, or a guarantee of payment, must be obtained before the patient can be transported in this way. This is of particular concern if the patient is in a critical condition and is unable to establish payment as they may be faced with an astronomical medical bill after the fact.
• Charity Funded: There are several air ambulance services in operation throughout the UK that are funded by charities. These charities rely on donations from the general public in order to provide their service free of charge to patients. The costs of these services are paid for by the charities themselves. It is extremely important that people support these charities as a lack of donations can result in these services becoming grounded. You can generally find details about such charities on the internet and it may be something you may want to look into if you are in a position to support a charity.
While these funding methods are specific to the United Kingdom, other countries may have similar systems in place. It is advisable, however, that you look into how these services are funded in your area of the world in order to safeguard yourself against any unforeseen circumstances.
If you are a traveller within the United Kingdom, or a UK resident travelling abroad, you should always consider how you can cover yourself against medical emergencies, particularly ones that may involve medical air transportation as the costs of these can be extremely high. If you take out a travel insurance policy you should always check if it covers air ambulance services and if not you should look into how you can cover yourself for these. There are also organisations available that deal specifically with air ambulance coverage. Whatever your circumstances it is always something you should become familiar with and cover yourself for in the event of an emergency.