NHS chief visits team NEAS as part of North East visit

26th March 2024

The chief executive of the NHS was given a live demonstration of our state-of-the art training facilities as part of a visit to the North East last week.

Amanda Pritchard, who has been the head of the NHS since 2021, visited NEAS as part of a visit to Newcastle on 21 March.

Whilst there, she took the time to our base in Newcastle, where she was able to visit our Operations Co-ordination Centre and Emergency Operations Centre before travelling to our Educations Centre on the Team Valley to meet some of our paramedic apprentices and see them in action using some of our facilities there.

Amanda Pritchard visits the Emergency Operations Centre at North East Ambulance Service


The Operations Co-ordination Centre (OCC) launched in December as part of our plans to improve performance and resilience.

Operational delivery managers Adam Gibb and Adam Brown explained how the team has oversight of all performance related issues internally at NEAS and across the wider healthcare system, supporting patient flow to help reduce handover delays across the North East.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard visits the Operations Co-ordination Centre at North East Ambulance Service

Adam Gibb, who joined NEAS as a student paramedic in 2013 before qualifying in 2015 and was most recently a clinical team leader before taking on his current secondment.

He said: “It was lovely to meet Amanda, she was very down to earth, engaging and seemed genuinely interested in the work of the OCC team. It was great to have the chief executive of NHS England showing an interest in what we are doing as a Trust and how it benefits our patients in the North East.”

The Emergency Operations Centre in Newburn is one of three in the North East. Between them, our health advisors answer more than 480,000 emergency 999 calls and more than 825,000 NHS111 calls; our team of EOC nurse and paramedic clinicians also treat more than 37,000 patients a year over the phone.

The EOC is also responsible for dispatching ambulances to 999 calls and planned patient journeys to clinics; and it is also home to our clinical assessment service, which provides broader clinical support of patients’ needs.

Our EOC works closely with the wider healthcare system, including opening up out 999 Cleric system to the region’s UCR services to manage patients without the need for an ambulance or emergency department admission.NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard with section manager Mark Richardson

Section manager Mark Richardson explained more about our dual-training model for health advisors – something we are the only ambulance service to offer – and the career pathways available within the EOC, whilst deputy chief operating officer Vicky Court explained more about our work to improve performance.

“It was really nice to meet Amanda, and to have her visit the EOC,” said Mark. “She seemed genuinely interested and responded very positively to the dual-skilled model which was great as it really does work, and enables real efficiencies as well as providing clear career pathways for people.”

Our Education Centre, based at Team Valley, opened in May 2021 having been funded by NEAS using income generated by commercial training and other education programmes. It houses all staff education, including driver training, apprenticeship training, core and statutory education and digital training, as well as commercial training.

Whilst there, Amanda was able to meet some of the team responsible for delivering clinical and core education for the organisation’s 3000+ colleagues, and watch them put some of our paramedic apprentices through their paces in our state-of-the-art immersive suite where they are fully immersed into a real-life scenario to learn and experience in a safe environment.

Afterwards, paramedic apprentices Lauren Kay, Mark Brockhurst and Dragos Plamada sat down briefly with Amanda to talk about their career progression to date and what the future holds.

Lauren, who joined NEAS five years ago as a health advisor, has just two months left of her apprenticeship.

She said: “Amanda was lovely, very interested in what made us apply for our roles, what the Education Department has to offer us as students and where we see our careers going in the future. She was able to watch a demonstration of a trauma scenario in our simulation suite, including the noises, smells and realistic mannequins with special effects makeup! It was a really good opportunity to showcase what we can do for our critically unwell patients before they reach hospital.”

Dragos, who joined NEAS as a clinical care assistant in 2022, added: “Meeting Amanda was great. She asked me how I got onto the paramedic apprentice programme and the preparation prior to that.

“I highly recommend the paramedic apprenticeship programme to everyone who wants to become a paramedic.”

Mark, who joined NEAS in 2017 as what was then an emergency care assistant, was successful in joining the first paramedic course in 2021 but his training took a setback following a serious motorcycle accident in 2023, where he suffered a broken neck and back. He is now back at work on alternative duties until he can recommence his final year of studying in September.

“It was a privilege to be selected to meet Amanda,” he said. “We discussed my history of MMA fighting and judo as well as my crash. I explained to her how as a patient at the roadside my treatment was first class by all the crews involved in my care, and this was also the case by the RVI and the intensive care unit.” 

Helen Ray, NEAS chief executive, said: “It was a real pleasure to show Amanda some of the fantastic work our teams are doing to support patients in our region.

"Whilst on her visit, Amanda heard more about how our Operations Co-ordination Centre ensures we're working effectively internally and as a wider system to provide the care our patients expect and deserve. She also saw how our dual trained 999 and 111 health advisors, combined with our Clinical Assessment Service, provide seamless patient care. We are the only ambulance service to offer this integrated model of care and it's something we're proud to provide.

"Amanda also visited our Education Centre and experienced our state-of-the-art facilities in action before speaking to some of the paramedic apprentices on our internal training programme.

“We really appreciated the opportunity to showcase how we are moving forward as an organisation and to recognise all the effort that team NEAS have made to help us get there.”