National Fitness and Wellness Charity Challenge Launched to Support Emergency Services

Emergency services teams and those that support the blue light community are being encouraged to register to take part in a month-long fitness and wellbeing charity challenge to raise money for four emergency services charities.

The Blue Light Get Active Challenge has been launched by national charities The Fire Fighters CharityThe Air Ambulance ServiceThe Ambulance Staff Charity and Police Care UK in partnership with the country’s leading emergency service discount provider, Blue Light Card, and the wellbeing organisation, Get Active.

Taking place from 01st – 31st October, the charity challenge will see participants tasked with clocking up as many miles or minutes of fitness or mindfulness exercises as they can throughout the month.

The campaign aims to help improve the health and wellbeing of frontline workers while raising vital funds for the four charities that provide much needed support to the UK’s emergency services teams.

Following an exceptionally challenging two years where emergency services teams have been under more pressure than ever before, a recent study by MIND revealed that 69% of emergency responders felt like their mental health had deteriorated as a result of the pandemic.

This was due to increased workloads, exposure to traumatic events, and worries over passing coronavirus on to their loved ones. 

Figures from Get Active have also revealed that one in three people of working age suffer with poor mental health, with 70 million working days lost each year in the UK as a result.

However widespread research has revealed that exercise has many benefits for our mental health and wellbeing, with one report by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers finding that there is a 20-30% lower risk of depression for adults who participate in daily physical activity. 

This autumn’s campaign marks the second Blue Light Active Challenge following a successful challenge in January which saw a total of £15,000 raised for the four causes.

Commenting on October’s upcoming event, Tom Dalby, CEO of Blue Light Card, said: “Our emergency services teams work incredibly hard day in, day out, but the past year and a half has seen them facing huge amounts of pressure, with many sacrificing their own health to keep the nation safe in the wake of COVID-19.’

“The pressures of working tirelessly on the frontline can have a significant emotional impact on those working within the blue light community but fitness and mindfulness exercises can play a big part in helping to overcome that.’

“Supporting our emergency service workers is at the core of what we do so this Get Active Challenge is a particularly special one for us.’

“I can’t wait to see how many take the time out of their day to focus on their health and wellbeing in October, all while raising money for a fantastic cause.”

David Kelly, director at Get Active Challenges, also commented on the campaign: “Emergency service workers have not only been key in treating the public during the pandemic, but they’ve also been crucial for implementing that all-important vaccination rollout with tremendous success.’

“Frontline workers have faced many challenges over the past year and a half, and with gyms and team sports only just reopening this summer, it’s been even harder than ever for them to focus on their own fitness and wellbeing.’

“It’s so important to destress after a tiring shift, and we’d love for emergency responders to join us this October by taking part in any fitness or mindful exercise which boosts their mood. Whether that’s walking your dog or playing a netball game — no activity is too small.

“We’re delighted to be able to work with these charities and Blue Light Card once again after a successful campaign earlier in the year.’

“We look forward to helping frontline workers reap the huge mental and physical benefits that fitness and mindfulness exercises can bring, while also raising money for four amazing organisations.”

Those taking part will be able to download the Get Active app and track their progress during the month. There will be points awarded for taking part in activities, and a leader board will be updated throughout the duration of the campaign with the overall winner crowned at the end of the campaign.

Everyone who signs up and completes an activity will also receive a specially commissioned blue light medal at the end of the month.

To register and for more information on the Blue Light Get Active Challenge visit: https://bluelightgetactive.com

Why Funding For Paramedic Students Should Be Available To All

By Megan Durling

As a student paramedic in England with a previous undergraduate degree, my motivation to become a paramedic comes at a significant personal cost — £27,750 in tuition fees to be precise.

Unlike my peers who are studying nursing, midwifery and nine other Allied Healthcare Professional (AHP) courses as a second undergraduate degree, paramedic students are prohibited from accessing any financial support from Student Finance England (SFE).

Of course, this was all news to me when I started my Paramedic Science degree at St George’s University of London in September 2018.

Two years earlier, I’d graduated from the University of Bath with a 2:1 Hons in BSc Natural Sciences and then worked as a mental healthcare assistant while deciding which medical career I wanted to pursue.

When I applied to study Paramedic Science I was told by Student Finance England that I would be entitled to funding for my degree because it was an AHP course.

But once I was accepted onto the course it later transpired that I would not be eligible for financial support afterall, which came as a huge shock.

The Impact On Students

It is estimated that five per cent of current students are affected by the lack of equity of funding, and for many prospective mature students this is a significant barrier to higher education.

In an attempt to overcome the financial implications of not being eligible for funding, many students look to paid employment alongside their education, which in itself can present numerous challenges.

For those who do find employment, trying to balance work, life, placement, study and possibly childcare can often result in students suffering from high levels of stress, anxiety, and ultimately burnout. Financial support could significantly ease some of this pressure.

In my case, I turned to my family for help. In an effort to contribute towards my tuition fees, my parents made the difficult decision to remortgage their home, to borrow additional funds, and my mother also chose to return to work in order to support me — a privilege I know not all students have, and one I am extremely grateful for.

But even with my parents’ contribution, it was still necessary for me to secure a part-time job working in a supermarket in order to sustain a living and pay for additional costs such as course equipment, and travel both to and from university, and to and from the locations of my placements across London. 

These are just some of the considerations a mature student has to think about before pursuing a new career. Questions such as: Can I afford to live without a steady income? Will I be able to pay the rent? Can I afford childcare and the necessary travel costs to attend lectures and placement?

If they were studying nursing, midwifery or another eligible AHP course, then the answer to all of these questions would unequivocally be ‘yes’ because they would be entitled to receive full financial support. So why is it different if you want to become a paramedic?

Background

In 2017, the NHS Bursary Reform stated that those students beginning a nursing, midwifery or pre-registration AHP course would be eligible for full funding from Student Finance England, regardless if they already held an equivalent or lower qualification (ELQ).

Despite sufficient evidence to support Paramedic Science being a pre-registration AHP course, the same eligibility for funding rules, however, did not apply to paramedics.

Around the same time, the Health and Care Professions Council announced that as of September 1, 2021, the threshold for entry to register with them as a paramedic had been raised to Bachelor Degree with Honours in Paramedic Science.

While this was undoubtedly a great triumph for the paramedic profession, it made the vast disparity in accessing funds glaringly obvious.

How could student paramedics, who now hold the same professional level qualification as their Allied Health Profession peers, continue to be denied funding when financial assistance is so readily available to those studying other AHP courses as a second degree?

I’m sure most people would agree that we have played, and continue to play an equally vital role as that of our AHP counterparts in the provision of health and care in this country. 

The Learning Support Fund

In January 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care announced all new and existing paramedic students studying at English universities would benefit from additional NHS funding in the form of the Learning Support Fund (LSF) to support the financial implications of their training.

In real terms, this meant that a £5,000 grant was available and student paramedics were at last being offered a much-needed financial lifeline.

Megan Durling, Author & Student Paramedic

However, delight quickly turned to frustration when it emerged that those students who held a previous degree would not be eligible for the LSF.

In order to be entitled to the grant, students must qualify for funding from Student Finance England which begs the question: Why is the grant only offered to those already in receipt of financial support?

Final Thoughts

As a paramedic student with a previous degree, all I am asking for is a level playing field with my AHP peers, with whom we work in tandem to provide care and support to our patients across the UK.

I believe that to accomplish this, all paramedic students, as deserving members of the Allied Health Professions, studying either a primary or secondary degree, should be eligible for financial support throughout their studies, from Student Finance England and the Learning Support Fund to cover tuition fee costs and associated living and travel expenses.

For me, choosing to become a paramedic is the best decision I’ve ever made, but without my family’s support I know it wouldn’t have been possible.

I’m one of the lucky ones, but there are countless students with undergraduate degrees who would dearly love to become paramedics and can’t, simply because there’s no financial aid available to them. It’s so unjust, and we need it to change.

For more information and to support the campaign, visit www.collegeofparamedics.co.uk – News – Campaign for Student Funding.

For enquires please contact the campaign’s Student Press and Communications Officer, Charlotte Austwick: charlotte.austwick@collegeofparamedics.co.uk

Or Student Campaign Manager, and author of this piece, Megan Durling: megan.durling@collegeofparamedics.co.uk

MDA’s New Paramedics: Father and Son

Itzik (53) and Amir Amzaleg (25), a father and son, where recently involved in a special and extraordinary occasion when they both took the stage at the graduation ceremony of MDA’s paramedics course and received their certifications. Afterwards, they went out for their first shift together on a MICU (Mobile Intensive Care Unit).

In 1981, Itzik Amzaleg, a resident of Avigdor, came to MDA as a volunteer and has since fallen in love with the organisation, holding a variety of positions over the years. Today, Amzaleg is a paramedic and acting manager of the MDA station in Kiryat Malachi.

Amir, a resident of Ashdod, began his career in the organisation at age 15 as a youth volunteer. Now, he is the acting manager of the National Dispatch and First Responders Dispatch at MDA’s National Operations Centre in Kiryat Ono.

Itzik shared his thoughts on the special occasion saying: “Working with my son has showed me how responsible and dedicated he is.’

“He sticks to his goals and loves his job. I am very proud of him and happy that we are able to work together. This is not something that every father and son gets to do, and that made our first shift very special.”

Itzik (left) and Amir (right)

On the shared responsibility and experience, Amir added: “We manage to make a complete separation during the shift during which we work professionally and regardless of being family. Despite this, the experience is great and we have a lot to talk about at Shabbat dinners.’

“We manage the situation together, come with good spirit, and desire to help others. The last word is of Dad, of course, who has been in the organisation for 40 years and has years of experience, but we work very well together.’

“When we travel together in an ambulance, the feeling is very special — not something that happens to everyone.”

In 1979, the Ministry of Health granted Magen David Adom the authority to train and certify paramedics in the State of Israel. 41 years ago, on June 25, 1980, the first course certified the first 18 paramedics in the country.

Since then, Magen David Adom has trained 3,578 paramedics, including all paramedics in the Israel Defense Forces, universities, hospitals, the National Service and members of Hesder yeshivas who work daily to save lives with professionalism and dedication.

Of all the paramedics trained in the State of Israel in the past 41 years, MDA currently has 1,162 paramedics from all populations and communities in Israel, including Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze, new immigrants and secularists, secular, national-religious and ultra-Orthodox, including 918 employees and 244 volunteers, including 34 National and Civil Service volunteers.

Colleague Turns Life-Saver After Choking Incident

A Welsh Ambulance Service paramedic has been left feeling “eternally grateful” to the colleague who saved his life when he choked on his dinner.

And what’s more, Gareth Jones, of Tenby, wasn’t even supposed to be working with his saviour, paramedic Hayley Bennett that day.

Gareth, 42, and based at Tenby station was part way through his 3pm-3am shift in one of the service’s rapid response cars and had returned to base for his rest break.

Hearing that a colleague in Pembroke Dock had called in sick, leaving Hayley to work her overnight 6pm-6am shift alone, Gareth phoned their duty manager and offered to team up with Hayley for the rest of his shift.

Hayley Bennett and Gareth Jones in Tenby station where the incident occurred on Saturday 24 April 2021

It was agreed Hayley would head over to Tenby after her next call to join Gareth to form an emergency ambulance crew.

“It was around 8pm when I walked in and Gareth was sat eating his dinner,” said Hayley, 39. “We began talking and he just started choking.’

“I knew he was in trouble straight away. His face was bright red and his eyes were bulging.’

“He’d jumped out of his seat and was hammering on his chest.” Gareth’s airways were completely blocked and quick-thinking Hayley took action immediately.

“I was on him in seconds,” she said. “Back slaps to start with, and really shouting at him to cough as he was trying to breathe in.’

“I moved on to the Heimlich manoeuvre but it dislodged nothing. I returned to back slaps quickly and eventually he vomited which cleared his airways.”

Gareth, who has served 21 years with the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “It frightened the hell out of me. I felt like I was going.’

“I’d read about the impending sense of doom in text books, and that’s exactly what I had. I thought I was leaving my wife and kids. I’m eternally grateful to Hayley.’

“Without her, my wife would be a widow and my kids would have no father.”

After the incident, the pair stood there in disbelief and both have since admitted that what was over in a couple of minutes felt like a lifetime whilst it was happening.

Hayley said: “I think it felt like such a long time as we were there alone.’

“It was one of the most bizarre things that’s ever happened to me — I’ve never had to work on a colleague before. It was shocking really, I wasn’t supposed to be there.”

Gareth said: “Someone was looking after me that night. They would have found me dead on the station floor if Hayley hadn’t arrived as there was no other medically trained people there that night.”

Whilst Gareth was recuperating, the radio went off and a top priority Red call had come in. So whilst still reeling from the shock and with Gareth physically recovering, the pair rushed to their ambulance and set off to a seriously ill patient.

“I was still coming down really,” said Gareth. I had what was called inspiratory stridor or a high pitch voice as the airway was still partially obstructed. It took a little while for that to go.’

“Hayley got me a drink and I was starting to feel a little better when I heard our pin number on the radio. Hayley joked it was for me, but we were on our way to a Red call.”

Gareth went on to make a good recovery and has recently completed a Masters in Advanced Paramedic Practice. Hayley continues to work relief shifts around Pembrokeshire, juggling ambulance shifts with paramedic husband Mike and caring for her young son and older step daughter.

Armed Forces Week: “Thank You for Your Service”, Says Welsh Ambulance Service

The Welsh Ambulance Service is celebrating its service men and women past and present for Armed Forces Week (21-27 June).

Dozens of veterans work across the organisation having served in the Armed Forces, and are supported by a growing number of reservists.

More than 200 British Army soldiers also assisted the Trust’s COVID-19 effort by driving and decontaminating vehicles as part of Operation Rescript.

Among them were members of 9 Regiment RLC, 1 RIFLES and 3 R WELSH.

Mark Cadman, Operations Manager for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board Area, WAST; former-Royal Naval midshipman, and active Army Reservist

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “There are a lot of similarities between the Armed Forces and emergency services, not to mention the transferrable skills, so it’s no surprise that members of that community will gravitate towards a career in the ambulance service.’

“We’re extremely proud of the veterans who work in the service, and of our growing number of reservists too.’

“We have a long-standing relationship with the military and were very grateful to have secured their support in the collective effort against Covid-19.’

“We hope that their glimpse into the world of the ambulance service was as rewarding an experience for them as it was for us.”

Andy Haywood, Royal Navy Officer turned Director of Digital Services, and the Trust’s Armed Forces Champion, added: “Armed Forces Week is a wonderful way to recognise the contribution of our veterans, and the unique set of skills and experience they bring to the role.’

“Our work with the military through the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened our existing relationships with the Armed Forces community and opened up new opportunities for collaboration in future.”

Mark Cadman is the Trust’s Ambulance Operations Manager for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1991 as a midshipman, and later completed his nursing degree at the University of Wales College of Medicine before pursuing a career as an emergency specialist nurse.

He is an active Army Reservist, and has served in Afghanistan on four occasions, as well as in Iraq.

In 2019, he was appointed Commanding Officer 225 (Scottish) Medical Regiment.

The father-of-three said: “My Armed Forces and NHS career have run parallel for pretty much all of my adult life, and there are so many transferrable skills.’

“The soldiers that supported us in the COVID-19 pandemic were brilliant and had a real ‘can do’ attitude, even if they were out of their comfort zone.’

“They jumped straight into the role and got along brilliantly with our crews; we were sad to see them leave.”

In 2019, the Trust signed Step into Health’s Armed Forces Covenant and pledged to support members of the Armed Forces community to gain employment in the NHS.

It also recruited Veterans Champions from across the Trust to support new starters to make the transition into civilian life and provide one-to-one support and mentorship.

Claire Vaughan, Director of Workforce and Organisational Development, said: “Our work with the Armed Forces community has shown us time and again the direct correlation between the values held by those in the military and our own Trust behaviours.’

“We felt that recruiting Veterans Champions was a great opportunity to help those from the Armed Forces integrate themselves into a new work environment, and give them additional support as they adjust into a new way of life.”

Kevin Davies is the Trust’s Vice Chair and a Non-Executive Director, and has a near 40-year career in army nursing having joined the Territorial Army in 1983.

Last year, he was appointed Colonel Commandant Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC).

Kevin said: “I want to take the opportunity to recognise the contribution of all of our service personnel, whether veteran or reservist, and also pay tribute to the soldiers who integrated into the ambulance family so well during the pandemic.’

“Your response to the challenge, your resilience throughout and your commitment to the people of Wales was exemplary — thank you for all that you do.”

Armed Forces Week culminates in Armed Forces Day on Saturday 26 June, an annual event in which people are invited to show their support to the Armed Forces community.

Record and upload a video to social media in which you pay tribute to someone you know who serves or has served in the Armed Forces, and make sure to use the hashtag #ArmedForcesDay.

Reserves Day is also being celebrated on Wednesday 23 June to recognise the valuable contribution that reservists make to our Armed Forces.

Keep up to date on the Armed Forces Day Facebook and Twitter pages, and find out all of the latest news at www.armedforcesday.org.uk

First-Time Parents Meet Ambulance Call Handler Who Helped Deliver Their Baby Girl

First-time parents who delivered their own baby girl at home have met the 999 call handler who helped to bring their daughter into the world.

Troy Smith, 34, and partner Abigail Jones, 33, delivered baby Arabella Dilys Smith in the bedroom of their Llanelli home with thanks to a Welsh Ambulance Service call handler.

It was father-of-two Chris Bassett who answered the call from the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthen, and whose instructions on loudspeaker enabled the pair to deliver their 8lb 1oz new arrival safely.

Today, they met for the first time. Troy, who runs Llanelli-based EcoHeat Plumbing and Gas Services, said: “I’ve never felt adrenaline like it but I knew I had to focus on the situation for Abigail and the baby’s sake.’

Troy Smith with partner Abigail Jones, holds his daughter Arabella Dilys Smith, alongside WAST call-handler and former RAF Aerospace Systems Operator, Chris.

“It all happened so quickly, but Chris’ voice on the other end of the phone kept us calm.”

Abigail, a teacher at Ysgol Carreg Hir in Briton Ferry, went into labour at around 10.00pm on Thursday 03 June and made a trip to hospital, where nurses confirmed she was in the early stages.

The couple returned to their Pwll home, but their soon-to-be daughter had other ideas.

Troy said: “At around 4.30am, Abigail developed a lot of pain and said she had an urge to push.’

“I thought, ‘Right, this is happening’ and phoned an ambulance because I knew I’d be delivering the baby right there and then.”

It was Chris, a former RAF Aerospace Systems Operator, who picked up the call in the early hours of Friday 04 June.

The 29-year-old, who has been with the Welsh Ambulance Service for 18 months, said: “As soon as I answered the call, it was obvious that Troy and Abigail were in distress, as anyone would be in that situation.’

“The priority was to get Abigail in a comfortable position to deliver the baby safely.’

“For me, it was about giving them clear instructions while trying to keep them both calm.”

Troy added: “I just did what came naturally. When you’re in that situation, you just do it.’

“As soon as Arabella came, I felt this wave of relief and I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous she was.’

“Chris was so professional and handled the situation really well.’

“He gave us all the information and kept us calm.”

Ambulance crews arrived soon after, and took Abigail to Carmarthen’s Glangwili General Hospital, where she was treated for shock before being discharged the following day.

Abigail said: “The whole thing was petrifying because I just never expected to be having the baby at home, but we’re so grateful to Chris for helping us to deliver Arabella safely.”

Chris, from Hook, Pembrokeshire, added: “In your role as a 999 call handler, you’re helping people in their darkest hour, but I’m just glad this call had a happy ending.

“This is the third baby I’ve helped to deliver during my time at the ambulance service, but the first one I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

MDA’s Wish Ambulance Fulfils Dream for 7-year-old Capt. Rafael Yotam

About four years ago, Rafael Yotam Cohen, who has cancer, fulfilled a dream using an MDA Wish Ambulance by flying in an MDA-Lahak emergency helicopter in the southern skies of the country. Recently, Rafael Yotam’s rare illness sadly returned for the third time, so his old friends at MDA returned once more to give him a day full of experiences upon a naval ship

The Magen David Adom Wish Ambulance project began volunteering in 2009, and to this day has managed to fulfil the wishes of thousands of critically ill patients. Recently they have been using a newly modified wish ambulance which was donated via the MDA Friends Society in Melbourne, Australia (headed by Ms. Glynis Lipson). Rafael Yotam’s wish was the first to be fulfilled through the new vehicle.

The fulfillment of Rafael Yotam’s first wish about 4 years ago had a positive effect on his medical condition, which coincided with an improvement in his health. Following this, Rafael Yotam’s mother, Ravit Cohen, decided to take an active part in the fundraising campaign for a new ambulancem, and even participated in a campaign in Australia.

Rafael Yotam at the helm

The Cohen family contacted MDA and told them of Rafael Yotam’s dream — and the organisation immediately joined the mission to help bring it to realisation. About a week ago, Rafael Yotam (7-and-a-half-year’s-old), a resident of Neta in the Lachish region, and the youngest of seven siblings, fulfilled his dream.

He arrived by MDA’s new Wish Ambulance at the naval base in Ashdod, where officers and fighters of one of the Navy’s Shaldag-class patrol ships were waiting for him with excitement and special refreshments and surprises.

As part of the special day, Rafael Yotam met the soldiers and officers of the navy, received an explanation about the ship and the weapons placed in it, and even set sail while sitting in the Captain’s chair and holding the rudder.

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter type includes full intensive care mobile equipment, the first and only electric bed of its kind in Israel adapted for critically ill patients, and a specialised refrigerator for medicine.

Rafael en route with his mother and paramedics Tomer Bar-Levi, Shachar Hezkelevich, and Yonat Daskal-Dagan in MDA’s new Wish Ambulance

The compartments in the ambulance are hidden, in order to reduce the level of stress among the passengers and simulate normal driving conditions. The ambulance includes a place for the driver, two staff members, a patient, and three accompanying family members.

This first wish in the new ambulance was accompanied by paramedics Tomer Bar-Levi and Shachar Hezkelevich, as well as paramedic Yonat Daskal-Dagan who accompanied Rafael Yotam also on his first wish.

Yonat remarked: “I am doubly excited, both from the fulfilment of Rafael Yotam’s wish and the launch of the new ambulance.’

“When we set out on a [fundraising] journey in Australia, Yotam recovered after the first wish. We were very saddened to hear that he was ill again.’

“We created a special day in order to put a smile on his face, at least for a few moments. I thank the Navy for enlisting in the special mission and we wish him a complete recovery and full health.”

Ravit Cohen, Rafael Yotam’s mother, said: “Already at the fulfilment of the first wish, we became very connected to the MDA family and the staff of the Wishes ambulance and we remained in close contact.’

“After Rafael Yotam recovered, I flew to Australia to promote donations to MDA’s new ambulance, and to my delight the donations were successfully raised.’

“We asked him what he would like to do and he answered: “to sail a ship.” MDA immediately organised the special day with the Navy, which was charming and extraordinary.’

“The experience was amazing — the soldiers hugged us and were cordial and prepared special gifts for Rafael Yotam. He was happy and excited, and told everyone who het met about the past experience.”

On the fulfilment of the special dream, Rafael Yotam concluded: “I had a lot of fun, and I want to be a captain now. I wander around the house all day with the flag I received from the soldiers, like Superman. Thank you all.”

Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex Executive Director Recognised IN Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021

Leigh Curtis, Executive Director of Service Delivery for life-saving charity Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS), has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021, receiving an MBE for services to the Air Ambulance Service particularly during COVID-19.

Leigh, who is a state registered paramedic, joined KSS in 2007 having worked previously for the NHS in frontline roles and as Executive Officer for the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb).

During his time as Director of Operations and Executive Director of Service Delivery at KSS, Leigh has pioneered many innovations, helping the charity to reach many more critically ill patients and significantly contributing to improved outcomes.

In Spring 2013, Leigh led the KSS team who collaborated with the Service for Emergency Rider Volunteers (SERV) to enable blood to be carried on board KSS’s helicopters and response cars so that patients can receive a blood transfusion at the scene.

Leigh Curtis,
Executive Director of Service Delivery,
Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS)

KSS was the first Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) outside London to be able to carry blood and the initiative is saving lives.

Also in 2013, and having added a new night-capable aircraft to KSS, Leigh oversaw the introduction of night flying, making KSS the first 24/7 HEMS in the country.

Since this time, KSS has carried out over 6,250 missions at night.

Testament to the significant achievements of the KSS service and operating procedures, in March 2020 the charity became the first HEMS to be rated Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission in all five of its inspection key lines of enquiry: safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

This has been further evidenced in the charity’s response to the COVID6-19 pandemic. Leigh adapted the KSS service so that it has been able to operate safely 24/7 throughout — despite an inevitable increase in staff absence as a result of team members needing to self-isolate — and, working with the NHS and SECAmb, Leigh extended the charity’s role at the frontline enabling KSS to transfer 100 critically ill patients between Intensive Care Units across the KSS region.

Leigh Curtis MBE said: “I am deeply grateful to receive this Honour on behalf of KSS for services to the Air Ambulance Service particularly during Covid-19. I very much see this as an achievement for KSS as a whole.’

“The service we deliver each day is only made possible because of the tremendous work and efforts of everyone at Team KSS, including our Trustees, crews, support staff, fundraisers, our volunteers and of course our supporters. I cannot thank them all enough for all that they do for us and our patients.”

“Over the past year, we have all faced an unprecedented challenge, and I am immensely proud that we have not only continued to deliver our life-saving service 24/7 throughout but we have also extended our service.’

“In addition, we have continued our focus on pushing boundaries and setting new standards in life-saving pre-hospital emergency care through our research and collaborations, taking further steps towards realising our vision of an end to preventable loss of life from medical emergency.”

Dr Helen Bowcock, Chair of the KSS Board of Trustees, said: “Leigh’s contribution to the field of pre-hospital emergency medicine is exemplary and this Honour has been earned over the course of many years of tireless commitment and dedication to the needs of patients.’

“He deserves great credit for many important developments, most notably for the introduction of night flying, of carrying blood on board the aircraft and, more recently, for his astute leadership during the COVID crisis. I am delighted that he has been recognised in this way.”

David Welch, KSS CEO, said: “My sincere congratulations to Leigh for this incredibly well-deserved Honour. Leigh’s significant experience and expertise are crucial to ensuring KSS fulfils its purpose to save lives and to enable the best possible outcomes for our patients, and his caring, people-centred approach is valued by us all.”

“Not only is Leigh a wonderful asset and ambassador for our charity, he is a trusted authority in pre-hospital emergency care across the UK and beyond. On behalf of Team KSS, I would like to convey heartfelt thanks to Leigh for his hard work and years of service.”

MDA Launch New Facebook Feature to Promote Blood Donations

Adi Soffer-Teeni, the General Manager for Facebook Israel, recently visited Magen David Adom’s National Operations Center in Kiryat Ono to launch a new technology feature with MDA’s Director General, Eli Bin, which will be integrated into Facebook in order to help raise awareness of the importance of blood donations In Israel. It will also show users of the the of MDA’s blood services throughout the country, where donations can be made.

With the new feature, Facebook social network users will be able to sign up for real-time alerts about blood donation centres in their area, set up routine reminders to donate blood, and invite family and friends to donate blood themselves.

More than 100 million people worldwide have signed up to receive blood donation alerts in their area and use the feature to donate blood on a regular basis.

Director General of MDA, Eli Bin, with Adi Soffer-Teeni, General Manager of Facebook Israel

Magen David Adom points out that their blood services are required to collect 1,000 units of blood every day in order to have a sufficient enough supply for patients in need of emergency transfusions.

During the visit, Eli Bin explained to Adi the variety of technological means integrated into MDA’s advanced systems and introduced her to Facebook technologies which are already integrated with MDA’s control systems, such as a direct chat channels via WhatsApp with EMTs or paramedics based in call centres, and other functions which allow people to relay their location immediately and send images of the scene, patient, or useful landmarks.

Eli Bin, MDA Director General: “We are excited about Facebook’s initiative to launch on the International Blood Donor Day a feature developed specifically to encourage blood donations, and thanks to which we will be able to reach a wider audience and significantly increase the number of volunteer blood donors in Israel.’

“This is an important national mission that will raise awareness of blood donations and make the location of MDA’s blood donation centres accessible throughout the country.’

“This is an algorithm that can, literally, save lives. We thank and welcome the initiative, investment and exceptional result”.

Commendations for London Ambulance Service Medics Tackling Knife Crime

Medics from London Ambulance Service who educate school children on the realities of knife crime to deter them from carrying weapons have been commended by the police.

Paramedic Sukhjit Kadri and emergency medical technician Keith Plummer give youngsters in schools across east London honest and hard-hitting facts about what knife injuries look like and the life-changing impact they can have.

They also play a recording of a harrowing 999 call that was made after a fatal stabbing of a teenager.

Emergency medical technician Keith Plummer and paramedic Sukhjit Kadri show the Commander’s Commendations which they were awarded

The medics are part of a team who have worked alongside officers from the Metropolitan Police to educate hundreds of teenagers across Barking & Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge schools to stem the tide of gang violence in London.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman presented Sukhjit and Keith with a Commander’s Commendation at a small ceremony in Romford to recognise their commitment and collaborative work on tackling knife crime.

Sukhjit, who led the project for London Ambulance Service, said: “I’m so passionate about this work and it is so rewarding being able to give back to the community that I grew up in. I have been able to work in my old secondary school and sixth form.’

“It is a real honour to be recognised, but the real reward has been the feedback from pupils who have talked about the impact we have had.’

“We tell them about treating patients their age; our talks are emotional and relatable and we know it makes a difference.”  

The presentations are aimed at Year 9 pupils in an area which has a high rate of knife crime.

Keith said: “It is really nice and unexpected to get an award for a job I love doing. When you talk to the kids, you can see they are gripped.’

“We have knowledge and experience of the consequences of knife crime; of seeing people hurt and seeing their families.’

So we are passionate and enthusiastic about educating kids and we can say to them: this is what we do, this is what we see, this is real.”

Sukhjit and Keith deliver their workshops alongside police colleagues PC Halleron and PC Harris; and Nathan Levy, who runs the Robert Levy Foundation, a charity set up after his brother was murdered. All five were commended.

Det Chief Supt Clayman said: “The workshops have so much impact — they have resulted in students coming forward and giving information about other pupils carrying weapons.’

“This collaborative project is delivered alongside their other work commitments and they are passionate about their goal as ultimately they are trying to make youths in London safer.”