North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has introduced plastic screening for its team of volunteer drivers to help keep them and their patients safe amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
More than 150 people volunteer with NEAS as ambulance car service (ACS) drivers, using their own vehicles to help transport patients to and from hospitals and clinics, which keeps ambulances free for emergencies and for patients too ill to travel by car.
Of those, some are currently shielding until the end of June as part of Government guidance during the Coronavirus epidemic, but a core team of 69 are still volunteering their time to support patients who are still travelling in and out of hospital for life-saving treatment, such as chemotherapy and dialysis.
During the current climate, all drivers are provided with masks, gloves and alcohol gel to keep themselves and their patients safe. However, the Trust has now gone one step further by working with international firm Driver Bubble to introduce plastic screens into volunteers’ cars following a successful trial in May.
Made of durable, flexible PVC plastic, the bubble screen is secured behind the front seats of the vehicle to create a protective shield between the driver and passenger.
The bubble screen was trialled by 54-year-old ACS driver Bob Pattinson, of Blyth, who began volunteering with NEAS in November 2017 after a career in the military.
He said: “As well as keeping ourselves safe, we’re trying to do our best to keep patients safe and I think this is a real asset to help us do that.
“I’ve had some really positive feedback from my patients. One lady told me she had felt quite apprehensive about getting in a car with everything that’s going on but that this really helped put her at ease and made her feel much safer.”
James Fenwick, of Ashington, relies on the ambulance car service three times a week for dialysis treatment at the RVI. He said: “I hadn’t even noticed the screen at first, but it definitely makes you feel safe, it’s a canny idea.”
Deputy Chief Executive Paul Liversidge, who oversees the volunteer development team leading on this project, said: “The safety of all staff and volunteers working for and supporting our service is paramount and we’re doing all we can to protect them and the patients we serve during the current Coronavirus pandemic. Introducing these screens is the next step in helping us do this.
“We are very grateful to Bob for trialling the screen for us and, with his help, we have been able to tweak the design to suit our needs. We’re now also investigating whether the screens could be modified further to make them suitable for some of our other vehicles.”