'Best job I've ever had' - Air Ambulance chief retires after seven years

Patrick Peal smiles in front of East Anglian Air Ambulance warehouse

Patrick Peal, chief executive of East Anglian Air Ambulance and co-founder of the charity, retires after seven years in the role. - Credit: East Anglian Air Ambulance

One of the founders of the region's air ambulance service has announced he will be calling it a day after seven years at the helm of the life-saving organisation.

The East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) announced on Tuesday that its chief executive, Patrick Peal, will be retiring from the charity in June after seven years in the role.

Mr Peal played an integral part in setting up the charity just over 20 years ago, and has been the charity’s chief executive since 2014.

In that time, the charity has undergone a huge transformation and growth period in terms of fundraising income, operational achievements and becoming a top-rated local employer.

His final act at EAAA will be extending the flying service 24/7 in the summer.

EAAA was named Best Employer in the Norfolk Business Awards in November and has been ranked in the top ten not-for-profit companies to work for by the Sunday Times.

“I have achieved everything that I set out to as chief executive seven years ago and couldn’t be prouder of the organisation as it stands today," Mr Peal said.

"It has an amazing culture of fun and high-performance, and everything is always geared towards providing the very best patient outcomes and value for money".

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“EAAA simply wouldn’t exist without the fantastic support of the local community and that is something that I’ve always been keen to remember and advocate to the rest of the team.

Smiling man in helicopter

Patrick Peal on board one of the charity's helicopters. - Credit: EAAA

“When I took on the role of chief executive seven years ago EAAA was attending about 1,700 missions a year and raising £8 million annually.

"I’m proud to say both of these areas have significantly increased, by about 60%, with 2,700 missions attended in 2019 and over £14 million raised in the same year.

"That’s a huge testament to the community that keeps this charity flying and I’m really excited to see how EAAA continues to progress in order to help the East Anglian community even more.”

“I’m really proud to have seen all the years of planning come together over the last few months into a truly spectacular, world-class facility in Norwich.

"The teamwork and progress at EAAA, despite recent challenges, has been beyond fantastic.

"Being chief executive of East Anglian Air Ambulance is the best job I’ve ever had, but all good things must come to an end eventually.

"The charity is approaching an exciting new era of 24/7 helicopter operations and now is the right time for me personally to step back and let someone else lead EAAA into what I’m sure will be a very exciting future."

Patrick Peal, chief executive of the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Patrick Peal, chief executive of the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The chairman, Sir William Cubitt, says:  “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Patrick Peal this year. 

"He has lived and breathed EAAA for much of the last 20 years and is rightly credited with its great success over that time. 

"The charity has benefited hugely from his ambitious vision, dynamism and charisma which has brought such a professional lifesaving operation to East Anglia. 

"He has set the charity up well for the future and we very much look forward to the next stage of its story under the capable leadership of Matthew Jones who is already well known to the charity, and the charity to him.”

EAAA’s Director of Operations Matthew Jones has been appointed as Patrick’s successor. 

“It’s a huge honour to be offered the opportunity to lead this fantastic organisation into the future and I will do my very best to carry on the remarkable work that Patrick has started," Mr Jones said.

"My first focus will be on implementing 24/7 operations from our new base in Norwich, a long-term goal of the charity’s which will make a huge difference to the type of service we’re able to provide at night.”

On his successor, Mr Peal said: "I am delighted that Matthew Jones will be succeeding me as CEO and have every confidence that the charity will continue to go from strength to strength in his very capable hands."