Hartlepool Junior Inspectors are pictured with Operations Centre team leader Karl Walker and Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) training manager Alun Ross

Young people inspect their ambulance service

Hartlepool youngsters spend the day at NEAS

North East Ambulance Service has had the inspectors in – this time in the form of a team of young people from Hartlepool.

Hartlepool’s Junior Inspectors are a group of youngsters aged between eight and 11 from St Teresa’s Primary School. Together they inspect services accessible to young people, such as leisure centres and hospitals.

And their latest inspection is North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).

The Trust welcomed its first group of young people to its Operations Centre in Hebburn last week.

Here, they were introduced to Operations Centre team leader Karl Walker, who taught them the difference between 999 and NHS111 and the impact hoax calls have on the service before giving them a tour of the live call centre, where call operators were taking some of the region’s 999 and 111 calls.

They also met Alun Ross, training manager for the Trust’s Hazardous Area Response Team, a specialist team of paramedics who are dispatched to hazardous emergency incidents throughout the North East. As well as talking to the youngsters about the types of incidents the team are dispatched to, which can range from road traffic collisions to water rescues and chemical incidents, Alun also showed them some of the equipment and vehicles used by the team, including a chemical suit.

A second visit to the Trust’s training school in Gateshead is scheduled for next month.

Mark Johns, engagement, diversity and inclusion manager for NEAS, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to engage with young people on a range of issues and help them understand how they can support us to improve our services for young people.

“Although the children haven’t been able to physically listen to calls or go out with our crews to physically inspect the services we provide patients, we’ve tried to give them as much as an insight into what we do as possible to gather their opinions and help them understand what we do.

“They have also had a look at the activity pack we provide for children when either they or a relative are involved in an incident and will be using the feedback they provide to improve our packs in future.”

“They asked some really clever questions and were really keen to get involved,” added Karl. “I think we’ve found the next generation of call takers for the ambulance service!”

Keona Ongsuco, aged 10, and Elisha Thompson, aged 11, were two of the inspectors involved in the trip.

“It was really fun,” said Keona. “We learned all about the different types of ambulances and I got the chance to try on an outfit, which I really liked. I also learned the difference between 999 and 111 which I didn’t know before.”

Elisha added: “It was good to learn when we should ring the different numbers, I thought that if you had chest pain you would ring 111 but actually you should ring 999. I also didn’t know they had different types of ambulances and different sets of kit. I really enjoyed it.”

The visit was organised with NEAS through Hartlepool Healthwatch and the West View Project, a voluntary funded youth organisation which set up the Hartlepool Juniors Inspectors project.

Rebecca Ferguson, service participation for the West View Project, said: “We could see how interested and engaged they were throughout the whole session. They’ll now be writing up a report of their experience, where they’ll make recommendations based on what they’ve heard.

“I think it’s really important that young people are involved in our local services. They are our future and they need to know that their opinions are worth something. Being able to see the results of their findings and the changes being made as a result really helps develop their confidence and self-worth.”

Stephen Thomas, HealthWatch development officer, added: “A core function of local Healthwatch organisations is ensuring that the voices of all patients are heard by the providers of health and care services.

“We are really pleased that young people in Hartlepool have had this opportunity to engage with the North East Ambulance Service and hopefully it will enable NEAS to ensure that the needs of young people are fully integrated into their service provision across the region.”

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