Ambulance volunteers recognised for their service

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) celebrated the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers who have supported the region’s patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Over 280 North East residents who volunteer their spare time to support North East Ambulance Service patients and employees were recognised last night (9 June) at a ceremony at The Station Hotel, Newcastle, organised by the NHS Foundation Trust to say thank you.  

The celebrations followed a week-long campaign to celebrate the nationally recognised Volunteers Week (1-7 June) and recruit for more ambulance car service drivers and hospital porters. 

Amongst the volunteers in attendance were 90 volunteers from across the service who have celebrated service of two years or more, including six extraordinary people (ambulance car service drivers Gordon Finlay and Gerald Henley, and community first responders Bruno Porter, Sharon Viney, Ian Garrett, and Pam Clouston) who have each volunteered for over 20 years helping those in need 

The volunteer cohort are made up of four unique roles which benefit the service in a number of ways: 

  • 102 community first responders who are based across the region and are trained to deal with emergencies prior to the arrival of an ambulance; over the last year they have attended over 1,000 incidents and on average provide 3,600 hours per month of additional coverage for the service, and respond to serious emergencies such as cardiac arrests which they have special CPR training for  

  • 153 ambulance car service drivers who in the past year alone have travelled 3.8million miles using their own vehicles to drive patients to and from appointments at hospital, which helps keep ambulances free for emergencies and patients who are too poorly to travel by car.

  • 21 hospital porters who work across the regions hospitals and are the first point of contact for non-life-threatening patients once they arrive at hospital; allowing ambulance crews to get back on the road and respond to more emergencies 

Pam Clouston, who began volunteering with the Trust in 2002, was awarded with an MBE in 2019 for her dedication to voluntary service. She became a community first responder after responding to an advert in her local newsagents looking for people to be trained to use defibrillators. Pam notes: “We were activated to jobs using a basic mobile phone and had to use maps to find the address of the incident; not an easy job, especially in the middle of the night. 

“Since then, there have been many improvements in our level of kit, and certainly for me working in rural Rothbury, the latest smart phone pager with built in navigation has been a huge step forward."

On her 20 years of voluntary service, she said: I have gained a lot from being a community first responder; it makes you realise how life can be changed in an instant, so to appreciate what we have and never take life for granted.   

NEAS chairman, Peter Strachan said: “It has been just over three years since we were last able to celebrate in-person with our volunteer cohort, and last night's ceremony was the perfect opportunity for us not only recognise their years of service but thank them too.  

“It was lovely to see each and every one of them, and hope they all had a wonderful Volunteers Week.” 

Deputy chief operating officer, Victoria Court, added: “It is an incredible honour to be able to celebrate those who are such a core and vital part of our service. Without them, we would have struggled during the pandemic to provide the care that we have.   

“Whether they are responding to incidents in their local communities or making sure patients far and wide get to an appointment for the treatment they need, our volunteers are ensuring that our promise to deliver the best care possible is met, often with a big smile! 

Volunteer’s Week has highlighted only a small percentage of the work that these incredible people do; selflessly and in their own time.I cannot thank them enough for the work they have done, and that they continue to do.” 

Find out how you can volunteer with NEAS here: /get-involved/volunteering-opportunities.aspx 

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