Kevin Curry pictured on the left and Gavin Riddle pictured on the right.

Ambulance driving instructor steers to success

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) driver trainer achieves national award for blue light training.

Driver training officer Gavin Riddle, based at Lanchester Road Hospital in Country Durham, has achieved the National Principal Assessor award which enables him to deliver the driving qualification instructors need to teach blue light training.

Instructors who teach frontline ambulance crew how to drive emergency vehicles including ambulances and rapid response cars have to hold the Diploma in Emergency Response Ambulance Driving Instruction (DERADI), which Gavin can now deliver to them.

Only a few trusts offer the assessment at present at a considerable cost and the award now means that Gavin can train NEAS instructors to the level necessary to deliver blue light driver training instead of searching and competing with neighbouring partners for instructors.

Gavin, who has been in the job for over three years, said, “Currently there is a shortage of qualified instructors nationally who can deliver blue light training. This shortage will be intensified later this year with the introduction of Section 19, which introduces new road traffic legislation for all emergency response drivers, who will need to go through further tests to keep up to date with the latest changes. 

“The assessor course took two weeks to achieve which included testing and a rigorous assessment process. Having someone now in-house to the ambulance service to deliver the diploma course to instructors creates a more efficient process for everyone involved.”

As an emergency healthcare service, the Trust relies heavily on its fleet to reach patients to provide them with medical treatment and transport them to hospital.

The driver training department is vital in supporting NEAS to continue to allow more operational staff to drive vehicles, to save patients’ lives.

From the first course in January 2020, 121 staff were trained to drive NEAS blue light emergency vehicles and around 4,000 hours were spent on the road whilst staff were training.

Driver training lead Kevin Curry is Gavin’s manager and has worked at NEAS for 25 years, first starting out his career on the patient transport service in 1996. He said, “Gavin’s achievement of the National Principal Assessor is a result of his hard work and dedication and we are now in the position of developing our own driving instructors, which is not only opening up a potential development opportunity for our staff, but will also result in significant cost savings by keeping training in house.”

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