David Welch, CEO of Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS), has won the Charity Times Charity Leader of the Year Award 2021 – a prestigious national award which celebrates excellence amongst charities and not for profit organisations from across the UK and honours the outstanding professionals in charity management.


With David at the helm, KSS has delivered outstanding results as a world-leading Air Ambulance charity at the forefront of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS).


Since joining the life-saving charity in 2019, David has been an inspiring leader to a highly skilled, diverse, multi-disciplinary team of 135 staff including doctors, paramedics, dispatchers, pilots, fundraisers, marketers and support staff, and 170 volunteers.


Over the last year, KSS overcame significant challenges under David’s leadership and was able to operate 24/7 throughout the pandemic, without dropping a single shift. In addition, and working in partnership with South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb), David spearheaded the extension of KSS’s service capabilities to support the NHS by transferring over 100 critically ill Covid patients between ICUs.


Each year KSS must raise over £15M to operate its life-saving service. 88% of this is raised through public donations and fundraising. The charity faced a deficit of £2.9M in March 2020 and David led the team to a surplus by early 2021, with the charity emerging from the pandemic in a robust financial position, ensuring it can continue to save many more lives.


David Welch, CEO, KSS: “I am honoured and immensely proud to have won this award which reflects the outstanding achievements of KSS over the last year. This would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the whole of Team KSS and the people in our regions who have so generously fundraised or donated to us. I am incredibly grateful to them all. I also wanted to extend my sincere thanks to Charity Times for this fantastic accolade.”


Dr Helen Bowcock, Chair of KSS Board: “As trustees of KSS we are immensely proud of the way that the charity has performed during the most challenging of times and congratulate David on his exceptional leadership and on receiving this prestigious award. His compassionate and collaborative style and his dedication have motivated people across the organisation to strive for the best possible patient outcomes and to ensure that no single shift has been missed over the last eighteen months.”


Lynne Harris, KSS’s Executive Director of Income Generation, Marketing and Communications: “David embodies everything a leader should be: visionary, people centred, compassionate, inspirational, authentic and purpose driven. His leadership has transformed KSS and his passion for achieving the very best outcomes for patients will ensure KSS continues to save many more lives. He thoroughly deserves the recognition gained through this Charity Times Award.”


Sarita Taneja, KSS Community Fundraiser: “David has created a strong, people centred culture where staff feel included and valued. He has involved Team KSS in the creation of our strategy and future vision and introduced new engagement opportunities. David inspires us all to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.”


David Welch is also on the Board of Trustees for Air Ambulances UK (AAUK). He is a strong advocate of collaboration and shared learning in order to push boundaries in the sector.


Nikki Wright, Head of Membership, Communications and Campaigns at AAUK, said: “We are delighted that David has been recognised in this way for his inspiring leadership of an incredible Charity and vital contribution towards helping to save more lives and improve patient outcomes.”

In 2020, KSS won Charity Times Charity of the Year Award 2020 (with an income over £10m).

Charity Times Awards, now in their 22nd year, celebrate and promote best practice in the UK’s charity and not for profit sector, contribute towards raising the standards of charity management and provide recognition for those who are delivering effective support to the sector. A list of winners is available here.


Kent Charity Awards 2021

On the same evening as the Charity Times winners were announced, KSS was also crowned winner of the Kent Charity Award: Large Charity and was selected by the judges of the Kent Charity Awards as Kent Charity of the Year 2021. These awards showcase the hard work and perseverance that charities and their staff undertake to make the lives of others better.