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Richard Earlam

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 11 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5481
  1. Penny Warren
  1. London
  1. penny.warren{at}

General surgeon and co-founder of London’s Air Ambulance

Credit: Melissa EarlamRichard Earlam in the Bavarian mountains.

In 1989 an ambulance helicopter took to the London skies. For the first time, an advanced medical trauma team could bypass the capital’s congested roads to reach critically injured people.

Richard Earlam was a consultant general surgeon at the Royal London Hospital. In the mid-1980s he had been troubled by reports from the Royal College of Surgeons that said that many deaths of trauma patients could have been avoided with better initial treatment and faster transport to neurosurgical centres. At the time, there was only one helicopter service, based in Cornwall, and it did not carry medical staff. Earlam knew that the UK lagged behind countries such as Germany, where he admired the work of Gerhard Kugler and his successful helicopter emergency medical service.

Earlam and Alastair Wilson, a colleague at the London, joined forces to lobby for an air ambulance service. Earlam said that they were the “original enthusiasts who encouraged everyone interested to work together.” …

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