RNLI and The Air Ambulance

I suspect I may be leaning against an open door on this forum but it repeatedly hacks me off whenever I see/read things about the above and am reminded they rely on their charitable status.

Surely they should be properly taxpayer funded? From my own perspective, there are any number of ‘less worthy’ things from which spending could be diverted I feel.

I wondered if anyone knows the whys and wherefores behind this?


I’ve no idea why two of our emergency services are charities. It’s utterly shameful. :disappointed:

This could stray I fear.


It’s the same in New Zealand with the Coast Guard, Rescue Helicopters and Surf Beach Patrols, and I agree entirely. In fact, even our Ambulances aren’t fully funded either. Outrageous really. Yet we pay shed loads of readies in tax. Go figure.

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I’d prefer it didn’t. I’m just curious as to how this has come about.

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You can read the history of the RNLI here.


A huge advantage of being a charity is that you are independent of government interference. Imagine if they were government funded; would they still be saving asylum seekers from the waves?


Not wishing to be pedantic, but i don’t believe that the two organisations are classified as “emergency services”

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Um, yes?

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I have extended family members who are RNLI volunteers and they are intensely proud of their independant, charitable status. The system has worked well for 200 years and any shift to a state funded model will involve the dead hand of Treasury control and political interference.

Leave well alone.


Ah, OK!

This might be interesting

They seem to actually get some government funding?

You could extend this to include mountain rescue, coastguard, bloodbikes etc. I guess they were often started by volunteers, and so have remained that way at least to some degree. As demand for these services grows it’s often difficult for a voluntary organisation to keep pace.
In some European countries mountain rescue is funded by insurance, which is reasonably cheap and it seems fair to me that users (in this case mostly Alpine skiers and mountaineers) who are engaging in risk sports by choice should foot the bill rather than the taxpayer. (Just don’t forget to pay your subs, or that helicopter evacuation is going to cost you!)

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I can think of some large government funded organisations whose performances leave a lot to be desired. I believe, as a volunteer fundraiser for the RNLI myself, that the Institution is run efficiently and effectively in its present form. @badger1954 well said!
More than 146,000 lives have been saved and many more assisted. The RNLI can rightly be proud of its achievements. It also plays an important role in water safety with its education programmes such as “Float to Live”.


I can see the ‘public service should be funded by the state’ argument but wrt RNLI, Mountain Rescue, Cave Rescue etc feel that these are ‘grey areas’ and in many cases if people choose to put themselves at risk, the state shouldn’t be bound to fund their rescue. Air ambulance is a marginal case too - in this day and age having a decent ambulance service should be an expectation. Whether this should be via helicopter is a more difficult debate - to what extent should limited a NHS budget fund helicopters vs hip replacements??

I wasn’t rescued by the RNLI but by a private yacht when I was having an ‘adventure’ off the coast of Cornwall in a blow-up beach shop dinghy, I was 11 years old.

Had this very stern lady with a large boat not come along I could very well have needed the RNLI or drowned of course which is ok as I’d put myself at risk.

Ha… see what you did there! Clever.


Let’s not forget that there is a state funded service with whom the RNLI work seamlessly. HM Coastguard. The two organisations are complementary, but with different roles and responsibilities.


As you were a child there’d be questioning about whoever was supposed to be minding you.- and who clearly put you at risk. Nowadays there’d be all hell breaking loose about safeguarding…

Remember that the air ambulance doesn’t just transport injured people, they can also bring a doctor to the scene of an accident who can perform enhanced lifesaving procedures.


I bet he did a little bow to thank her, too!