North East ambulance service volunteers celebrated for NHS 70th anniversary

Volunteers recognised at awards event

The NHS’s 70th birthday celebrations are casting a light over the vital contribution that North East ambulance service volunteers make across the service.

During Volunteer’s Week (1-7 June), North East Ambulance Service thanked those already supporting the Trust by volunteering and hopes to inspire future generations to play their part in shaping the next 70 years of innovation and care.

More than 80 of the Trust’s volunteers were thanked for their support at a celebratory event at Choppington Social Welfare Centre.

The Trust, which covers 3,200 square miles across the North East region, serves a population of 2.7 million people by handling all NHS 111 and 999 calls for the region, operating patient transport and ambulance response services, with support from 330 volunteers.

Whether as a volunteer porter, ambulance car service driver, community first responder or governor, NEAS volunteers invest thousands of hours in the service every year with some choosing to volunteer to help them in their career path and others want to give something back at the end of their career.

In total, 67 volunteers were recognised for long service of between two and 20 years and 14 were highlighted for going the extra mile for their patients.

One volunteer received a certificate to recognise over 20 year dedication to supporting the Trust along with 4 volunteers recognised for 15 year service, 6 volunteers for 10 year service and 39 volunteers for five year service.

Yvonne Ormston, NEAS Chief Executive, said: “Volunteers make a significant contribution to their community in lots of ways in our organisation. Over the last 12 months, we have invested even more in our volunteers to ensure they have up to date skills and equipment to be an effective volunteer.

“Volunteering with NEAS gives people an opportunity to meet new people and invest in their community, often giving them experiences that will support their entering other NHS careers.

“Our staff and volunteers touch the lives of thousands of patients, and make a difference day in, day out. This event is about getting our volunteers together to show how much we appreciate their service and to say an enormous thank you for all that they do. 

More than 50 people volunteer as porters with the service, meeting patient transport crews at hospitals to and from vehicles to their hospital appointments.  Last year they helped nearly 5000 patients at five of the region’s hospitals, saving crews over 530 hours so that they could be back on the road to their next patient, and completing over 6000 shifts equating to more than 36,000 hours. They also assisted 2265 members of the public to make sure they got to the right department for their appointments. This year NEAS has recruited 12 new porters and is currently looking at recruiting a further two in the near future. We have supported the volunteers and offered programmes to help improve their IT skills as well as BLS CPR and First Aid Training and provided the opportunity for them to observe both A&E and Patient Transport Service crews.

Over 150 people volunteer as ambulance car service drivers (ACS) for NEAS.  At least 11 of them have volunteered for over 10 years and one has volunteered for over 20. Together they have completed a combined 939 years of volunteer service.  ACS drivers use their own vehicles to help transport patients to and from hospitals and clinics, which keeps ambulances free for emergencies and for patients too ill to travel by car. Last year the drivers completed patient journeys all over the region and reached over 3,900,000 miles.

All ambulance care service drivers are issued with a smart phone and ACS car signs as well as a full uniform. NEAS has provided ACS drivers with the opportunity to develop their skills by offering BLS CPR and First Aid Training and IT skills courses.

The service also values the support of approximately 100 community first responders (CFRs) who have been recruited and trained to respond to emergency calls when dispatched by ambulance control.  They deal with a specific list of emergencies and provide the patient with support and appropriate treatment until an ambulance arrives.

Their aim is to provide immediate care to a patient where every second counts; a patient who suffers a cardiac arrest stands a much better chance of survival if a fully trained person with a defibrillator can attend the patient in the first minutes of collapse.  Last year community first responders volunteered for nearly 23,000 hours, attending to 1,000 patients across the region.

NEAS has boosted the recruitment of CFRs over the last 12 months, welcoming a number of new people to the team, with training to develop their skills through the introduction of a nationally recognised level three qualification.  37 CFRs are now trained to deliver awareness sessions around CPR and defibrillation in their communities as well as the British Heart Foundation’s HeartStart with access to training mannequins to support them when attending a public event or providing training.   In the last year, 6725 people have been shown how to carry out CPR and use a defibrillator, 3410 of which were taught by our volunteers.

Upgraded uniforms and new equipment such as new pagers, belt clips and docking stations are giving our CFRs better access to ambulance control as well as greater protection against the elements when responding, making them clearly identifiable in public places.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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