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London Ambulance Service Launches New Public & Patients Council to Help Shape Services

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A new council formed by London Ambulance Service, bringing together patients, carers, volunteers and members of the public to help shape future services, has held its first meeting this week.

The Public and Patients Council includes a wide range of representatives from patient and carer groups, different London communities and the voluntary sector.

Meeting quarterly, it will examine and advise on broad areas of LAS’s work, from individual patient care, treatment and research through to the way LAS delivers and designs its services as well as strategy and forward planning.

The newly-launched council, which reports to the Trust Board, currently has 12 members and two independent co-chairs.

Dame Christine Beasley DBE, who was previously the Chief Nurse for England, has been appointed as the council’s interim chair.

Members of the council met ‘virtually’ for the first time on Tuesday 16 June and heard updates on how the Service has been meeting the challenges of COVID-19, as well as its progress in introducing a new electronic system to track and monitor the care we provide to patients.

Both of these discussions involved seeking feedback and views from council representatives on how they feel the Service has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and how they think the Service can best inform and engage patients around the introduction of the new electronic patient care record.

Dame Christine Beasely DME,
Former Chief Nursing Office
and Interim Chair for LAS Public & Patients Council

Dame Christine Beasley, interim chair of the council, said: “I’m delighted to be part of this new council, which will bring together views, expertise and experiences from many corners of LAS’s patient community, as well as carers, the general public and the voluntary sector.’

“It is crucial that all public health organisations keep talking with, and listening to, their service users to ensure they are in tune with what patients and the public feel it is important for them to focus on, both now and in the future.”

Antony Tiernan, Director of Communications and Engagement at London Ambulance Service, who is the executive lead for the new council, added: “Our patients and the people of London are at the centre of everything we do, and it’s vital that they have a voice in the way we design, develop and deliver our services.’

“The way we deliver care is changing, and we have formed the new Public and Patients Council to help us engage with different patient groups, carers, communities and the voluntary sector as we transform our services.’

“Their expertise and insight will be invaluable as we shape our plans for the future, as well as influencing the day-to-day running of the Service.”

The council includes representatives from Healthwatch Enfield, Terence Higgins Trust, the Samaritans, Carers Trust, Healthwatch Merton and St John Ambulance. It currently has 12 members, but will expand to 20.

People who are interested in joining should email: communications@lond-amb.nhs.uk.

London Ambulance Service Thanks Children for “Sharing” Their Mums and Dads

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The children of medics and call handlers at London Ambulance Service have been sent heartfelt letters from their parents’ bosses.

The letters have been sent to more than 1000 children thanking them for “sharing” their mum or dad with the ambulance service so they can care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah Ablewhite’s son, Jack

Paramedic Sarah Ablewhite made the difficult decision to live apart from her 14-year-old son in March.

She said: “My son Jack takes a lot of medication, also his dad has some respiratory issues, so I wanted to protect them. But it has been the hardest thing.’

“We Facetime a lot but it gets very emotional. We both go through all the emotions — he has been scared about me working but also frustrated and angry he can’t see me.’

“Getting the letter just made him so proud and lifted his spirits.”

Ambulance crew Mark Reeve has been living in a hotel since the outbreak of the pandemic to protect his asthmatic six-year-old son.

Mark Reeve’s son, Christopher

Mark said: “It has been very hard to be away from him, particularly missing his sixth birthday, but I felt it was more than just my job to be on the frontline; it was something I had to do.’

“London Ambulance Service is also my family. I don’t know when I will be reunited with Christopher but it meant so much for him to get a letter.’

“He’s no longer worried, he thinks of me as a superhero, saving lives.” 

At the peak of the pandemic, London Ambulance Service was getting as many as 11,000 calls a day.

Charlene Letts, emergency ambulance crew and a mum-of-three, suggested the Service send a message out to families at a time when staff were working long and gruelling shifts.

Charlene Letts’ children, Kiera-Louize (11), Harrison (7), and Sophia (2)

Managers thought it was a great idea and immediately starting sending out the letters — which are personalised for every child.

Charlene said: “The letters are reassuring and made our children feel so special, it said they were heroes and thanked them personally for everything they are doing to help mummy and daddy.’

“This made them feel a part of the Service and that they were helping.’

“It has given me great pleasure that something positive can come out of what has been and continues to be challenging times.”

Shurelle with his son

Emergency medical technician Shurelle Elvique said: “Listening to my eldest son read out the letter gave me a sense of pride, I had tears in my eyes.’

“My youngest said it was ok, he did not mind sharing me so I could help look after sick people.’

“The letter made me feel appreciated in such a tough time, like I was really making a difference.”

Lorraine Quinlan, who works in one of the Service’s 999 control rooms, said: “My son has been so scared and has cried every time I’ve left home to go on shift.’

“Getting this letter has been a massive boost to him — and my daughter.”

Letters have also been sent to grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews — any child who has struggled while a loved one has been working. 

Chief Operating Officer of London Ambulance Service Khadir Meer said: “The sacrifice that our people and their children have made during the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary.’

“I am incredibly indebted to our team for everything they have done and continue to do to care for Londoners.’

“With my own son having received a letter from the Chief Executive, I know only too well the power of this kind of letter written personally to your child in helping them understand the role their parents have played in tackling this crisis.”