Police Inspector Thanks 999 Call Handler

A Metropolitan Police Inspector has thanked a South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) 999 call handler for saving him when he became seriously ill, alone on an isolated footpath.

Inspector Dave George collapsed in hot weather on the South West Coast Path between Penzance and Land’s End in Cornwall during a solo training exercise for a charity walk.

The 43-year-old experienced “crushing” chest pains and was struggling to breathe after walking for several hours in the heat.

Inspector George, who was off-duty at the time of the incident in August, feared the worst, but managed to call 999 to get help.

SWASFT Emergency Medical Dispatcher, Olivia Molyneux, assessed his condition and stayed on the phone to him while crews travelled to the remote location.

Inspector George made a special visit to the SWASFT North Clinical Hub near Bristol to thank Olivia in person.
Inspector George made a special visit to the SWASFT North Clinical Hub near Bristol to thank Olivia in person.

“I thought that was it,” he said. “I was on my own, and needed help. It was a desperate situation. The response from everyone was amazing.”

“I wanted to thank Olivia personally, because call handlers don’t tend to get the recognition they deserve.”

Inspector George also sent a letter of thanks to SWASFT Chief Executive, Ken Wenman. He said: “The call handler was totally exceptional. She dealt with a very difficult and challenging call in the most superb way.

“The kindness and calm professionalism that she showed deserves special praise. I don’t think I could have got through that hour alone without her staying on the line and talking to me.”

Inspector George was later diagnosed with serious heat stroke. He has since made a full recovery.

The following symptoms are associated with heat stroke: not sweating when excessively hot; rapid or shortness of breath; loss of consciousness, unresponsive.

If you suspect someone has heat stroke, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

4-Year-Old Girl Praised for 999 Call

Four-year-old Kaitlyn Wright has been commended for knowing exactly what to do in an emergency.

Her mum, Charlene, was having a fit, and she was the only person at home with her.

So Kaitlyn called 999 and gave the important details to South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) Call Handler Jess Hodkinson.

During the call on 27 October, Kaitlyn was able to tell Jess precisely what was wrong with Charlene. Kaitlyn made sure that her mum was still breathing, and she stayed on the phone to Jess until help arrived.

Kaitlyn, Charlene, and dad Simon made a special visit to the SWASFT Control Centre near Bristol on Friday 30 November
Kaitlyn, Charlene, and dad Simon made a special visit to the SWASFT Control Centre near Bristol on Friday 30 November.

Kaitlyn was presented with a certificate on behalf of SWASFT Chief Executive Ken Wenman to congratulate her for showing extraordinary bravery, presence of mind, and wisdom beyond her years.

Kaitlyn said: “I pressed 999, and said my mummy was having a fit.”

Paramedics went to the family home in Askerswell, Dorset and assessed Charlene.

Thankfully Charlene stopped fitting, and she didn’t need to go to hospital.

Jess, who works in the Control Centre as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher, said the incident highlighted how vital it is for parents to teach their children what to do in an emergency.

That includes showing the children how to call 999, making sure they know their address, and ensuring they are aware of any known health problems in the family.

Jess said: “Every call is different, and we are taught how to deal with child callers as part of our training. But it is unusual to receive a call from someone so young.

“Kaitlyn was very brave and informative. She obviously knew how to call 999; she told me exactly what was happening, and where she lives.

“She knew exactly what to do in an emergency.”

Charlene has fibromyalgia which means she is in constant pain and can have up to 40 seizures a week.

Charlene said: “I’m so proud of Kaitlyn. At the time I wasn’t really aware of what had happened. I woke up with the paramedics standing over me. I was so happy when I found out what she had done.

“We taught all our children how to make a 999 call, and what to say to the call handler. We got Kaitlyn a pretend Disney phone and practised with it.

“It can be scary when you’re not well. But Kaitlyn makes me feel safe. She’s a star.”

Simon added: “Kaitlyn is a grown-up little girl who knows exactly what to do in an emergency. She is brilliant.”

Charlene said the family had been “overwhelmed” by people’s interest in Kaitlyn’s call. She said they had been given cards, gifts, and kind words from many people.

Ambulance Staff Celebrated at Awards

SWASFT Paramedic Mike Merrett (centre)

The heroic and tireless efforts of staff and volunteers to deliver outstanding patient care have been recognised at a South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust’s (SWASFT) awards ceremony.

The annual staff awards acknowledge those who have gone above and beyond expectations, and the dedicated service of long-standing members of staff.

Around 200 SWASFT staff and volunteers, and members of the public, who played vital roles in responding to emergency situations, came together for the event near Bristol on Friday 16 November.

SWASFT Chief Executive, Ken Wenman, said: “3,000 times a day, within the largest ambulance service in England, our people are saving lives, reducing peoples’ suffering and pain, and dealing with the social and mental health needs of our communities. I am personally thankful to them all.”

Among those staff who accepted awards were Stroud Paramedic Mike Merrett for 50 years’ dedicated service and Trowbridge Paramedic Steve Arnold for 40 years’ devoted service.

SWASFT Paramedic Mike Merrett (centre)
SWASFT Paramedic Mike Merrett (centre)

SWASFT Chairman, Tony Fox, said: “We are saying a huge and much-deserved thank you to staff and volunteers for their commitment, dedication and professionalism throughout the year.

“I continue to be overwhelmed by the level of care and compassion given to patients and their families often at times of great distress.”

Kevin Steele, 67, from Bournemouth, gave a speech thanking SWASFT staff and members of the public for saving his life when he had a cardiac arrest while driving.

Patient speaker Kevin Steele, who survived a cardiac arrest
Patient speaker Kevin Steele, who survived a cardiac arrest

He said: “I would be dead without the actions of everyone involved. Thank you so much. You’re all superheroes.”

He marked the anniversary of the incident in November 2017 by hosting CPR training at his home.

Best friends Owen Bailey and Owen Paulley, aged 13, were commended for helping a mum when her ten-month-old baby girl was swept into the sea at Weymouth.

Owen Paulley (left) and Owen Bailey with Ken Wenman. The teenagers aided a mum when her baby was swept into water at Weymouth Harbour
Owen Paulley (left) and Owen Bailey (right) with Ken Wenman. The teenagers aided a mum when her baby was swept into water at Weymouth Harbour

The best friends, with the assistance of another passer-by, aided the mum after she dived into the water at the harbour to rescue her infant.

The duo, who had been fishing when the incident happened in August, used their rods to retrieve the mum’s possessions from the sea.

The mum and baby were taken to hospital as a precaution, but the mum only sustained minor injuries and the baby was unharmed.

Owen Paulley said: “I heard a splash and turned round, and the mum was in the water. We ran over to help and stayed with her until the paramedics arrived.”

Owen Bailey’s mum, Katy, said: “They didn’t realise they were doing anything special. They just did it. And they didn’t even mention it when they got home.”

Lee Tapper and off-duty firefighter Simon Green were also recognised for their heroic efforts when they were the first people on the scene of two separate emergencies in Pewsey, Wiltshire.

Dreams come true for terminally ill Jamie

Paramedics from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) helped to make 10-year-old Jamie’s dream come true when they trained him up to become a ‘paramedic’ for the day. 

Jamie has the terminal genetic condition Neurofibromatosis, which causes tumours to grow along his nerves. Despite not being very well, Jamie likes playing paramedic games at home. His greatest wish is to become a member of the emergency services, helping other people.

The event was organised by Rays of Sunshine, a children’s charity who help brighten the lives of children who are living with serious or life-limiting illnesses.

Jamie said: “I feel honoured to be chosen to work as a paramedic for the day. I would like to thank everyone for making my wish come true.”

Jamie’s day began at the SWASFT North Bristol Operations Centre where paramedics taught him some basic life-saving techniques. Jamie then travelled to the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) airfield, learning how the critical care team use their specialist skills and equipment to treat the most critically ill patients at the scene of an incident.

Jamie’s mum, Mary, said:  “Jamie’s expectations for his wish day were totally surpassed, all thanks to the Rays of Sunshine organisation, and SWASFT ambulance/air ambulance services. This was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience, not only for Jamie, but for us all! We could have never have fulfilled Jamie’s wish to become a real life paramedic without help from Rays of Sunshine. Jamie and ourselves would like to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts.”

Rebecca Wilson, Paramedic Learning and Development Officer, for SWASFT said: “We really enjoyed having Jamie train with us. We put together a number of emergency training scenarios with our manikin HAL (a Gaumard high-fidelity manikin) who can replicate any medical emergency. Jamie enjoyed responding to the incidents in our emergency ambulance on full blue lights and sirens. He’s amazing and took on board all our clinical instruction. He’s definitely a future paramedic in the making.

“Now Jamie can do basic life support, he can take blood pressure and temperature as well as checking vital observations and give life-saving CPR compressions which he carried out on HAL and other crew members. Jamie can also give lifestyle and eating advice to keep people healthy and scoop and load patients onto a trolley.  He was really fun to have over, and we all wish him all the very best from the team at South Western Ambulance Service.  A big thank-you to the crew that helped on the day.”

Rebecca Miller, PR and Digital Communications Manager for GWAAC, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Jamie and his family to the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity air base, and to help make his wish come true. Members of our Critical Care team – a crew of specialist paramedics and doctors – ran through some simulations with Jamie, and he got the opportunity to meet the pilot and sit in the helicopter and Critical Care cars. We had a great afternoon showing Jamie the ropes and we were impressed with his paramedic skills!”

Jane Sharpe, CEO of Rays of Sunshine, added: “We couldn’t be more thankful to Great Western Air Ambulance Charity and the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust for helping us pull off such an incredible wish. Every day Rays of Sunshine gives brave and deserving young people the chance to put their illness on hold and Jamie’s wish is no exception.”

Community Responder Falls Project wins patient safety award

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has won a national award for a new initiative to improve patient care in local communities.
SWASFT was given the Best Care of Older People accolade at the Health Service Journal’s 2018 Patient Safety Awards in July.
The scheme involves Community First Responders (CFRs) across the region who attend incidents in which patients have had a non injury fall, but are unable to get up. Responders can now assess and move patients from the floor to a sitting or standing position, using a lifting device and with support from clinicians in 999 Control Hubs. The initiative means more rontline resources, such as ambulances, are freed-up for higher priority calls.
Rich Buckley, SWASFT Acting Responder Manager, said: “This is a fantastic recognition of all the efforts of the whole project team. Moreover it is a wonderful acknowledgment of the hard work put in by our trained Responders. They give their time freely to support patients in their local communities in a robust and safe way. Without them this fantastic scheme could not work.
“The NHS is built on a spirit of giving and going the extra mile for patients, and our Responders epitomise that spirit. In my twenty three years of service, this award is one of the things I’m most proud of.”
According to clinical research, one in three people over the age of 65 who live at home fall during a twelve month period. Non-injury falls patients had faced lengthy waits for ambulance services, because their call was not deemed to be high priority compared to other patients in life threatening conditions.
The concept was developed in 2017 as a way to attend and assess these patients more quickly, developing the skills and experience of CFRs and with help from clinicians.
Nigel Toms, an experienced CFR, tested the concept by attending a selected number of appropriate incidents with a lifting device. He was able to manage the vast majority of the patients effectively, without needing any additional crew. During a six-month trial involving more than 300 incidents, CFRS successfully assessed and lifted around three in four patients without the need for an ambulance to attend.  More than sixty CFR groups in the South West are now participating in this scheme. The benefits of the project are:
  • Patient experience: an enhanced response to non-injury falls, reducing waiting times and enabling frontline crews to be more available for life threatening incidents.
  • Increased skill set of Responders: they now take a temperature, blood glucose reading, blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory rate as standard. 
  • Financial and time savings: through more effective deployment of resources. Some of the monetary savings have been invested to purchase more lifting devices. 
  • Proactive response to the ageing population: today there are three times more people over the age of 90 than there were in 1984. 
The judges said about the entry: “This winning entry showed impressive scalability and particularly speaks to the principles of social change in the five year forward plan. The project showed great enthusiasm and a genuine drive to improve patient care and the judges felt this was a truly deserving winner.”
CFRs are trained volunteers who attend emergency incidents on behalf of SWASFT within their local communities. They respond to particular types of 999 calls where it is essential for the patient to receive immediate lifesaving care. These include conditions such as cardiac arrest, chest pain, breathing difficulties, unconscious patients, fitting and strokes. There are around 1,000 CFRs providing lifesaving support to patients across the region.
SWASFT covers one of the most rural areas of the UK, and is committed to providing the population of the South West with the highest standard of out-of-hospital care.