THE region is becoming better at talking about death, according to a charity which has seen a surge in donations from wills.

Within the space of a year, the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has experienced a three-fold increase in the amount of money being donated by people leaving a legacy in their will.

Donations from wills now make up 42 per cent of all fundraising at GNAAS, with individual gifts ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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The charity, which has its headquarters in Darlington, believes the increase is due to residents becoming more comfortable with discussing, and planning for, their death.

Sharon Munro, legacy fundraiser at GNAAS, said: “We are noticing more people getting in touch to discuss their plans.

"We are enormously grateful - it’s a massive boost to the charity, especially at a time when the sector is struggling to weather the financial storm.”

Comparing the past two financial years, the amount of individual donations in wills received by the charity has risen from 54 to 97.

“People seem to be more at ease in talking about their death,” added Mrs Munro. “I think it’s because people value the idea of leaving a tangible legacy behind them. The money is spent supporting the work of the helicopters and crews, so it is a potentially lifesaving contribution.

“But we are not complacent about the task before us - we need to raise £4m every year to keep the helicopters flying so we cannot just sit back and expect the public support to continue.”

The charity has responded to the upsurge by producing a brochure to guide residents through the process of leaving a gift to GNAAS in their will.

To receive one, call 01325-487263, email legacy@greatnorthairambulance.co.uk or visit the legacy section of the website at greatnorthairambulance.co.uk

*As of last week, GNAAS had completed 977 missions in 2012, an average of just less than three per day. This is slightly down on last year’s total, a decline which is being attributed largely to the wet summer, with less people taking part in outdoor pursuits.