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Armed Forces Week: Welsh Ambulance Give Thanks for Service

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The Welsh Ambulance Service is celebrating its service men and women past and present for Armed Forces Week (22-27 June).

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

Jason Killens,
CEO,
Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust

The Trust has also enlisted the support of the military through the Covid-19 pandemic, including members of 1st Battalion The Rifles and 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We have a long-standing relationship with the military and were very fortunate to have secured their support through the pandemic.

“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 privileged and grateful for the veterans who work across the service, and for our growing cohort of reservists too.”

Estelle Hitchon, the Trust’s Director of Partnerships and Engagement and the Lead for Veterans, 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. Thank you for your service.”

Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE has been military commander for Wales during the Covid-19 response.

He said: “The Armed Forces in Wales are very proud to be supporting the Welsh Ambulance Service in the collective fight against Covid-19.’

Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE

“It has proved a very rewarding experience for the 60 soldiers involved in crewing their ambulances and a further 60 who decontaminate and clean them.’

“The soldiers have learnt a huge amount from supporting the paramedics on nearly 5,000 callouts, which has included assisting in the delivery of several babies.’

“We have built an excellent working relationship with NHS Wales and have been truly humbled by their selfless commitment and dedication during such a difficult time.’

“To have played a small part in this has been a real privilege.’

“As Armed Forces Day approaches, we are rightly reminded of the sacrifices made by all those who choose to serve their nation.”

Claire Vaughan, Director of Workforce and Organisational Development,
Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Last year, 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.

In May, 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 soldiers from 1 RIFLES and 3 R WELSH who have 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 has been exemplary. Thank you for all that you do.”

Members of the public see tributes that were paid to the to the Armed Forces community during Armed Forces Week by using the hashtag #SaluteOurForces to see photos and videos which have been submitted.

NHS Direct Wales Celebrates 20th Birthday

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The one-stop shop for health information and advice in Wales is celebrating its 20th birthday.

NHS Direct Wales, which is hosted by the Welsh Ambulance Service, is available to call 24 hours a day, every day for people who are feeling ill and are unsure what to do.

It manages an average 46,000 calls per month, while its website allows the public to check their symptoms online and search for their nearest dentist, minor injuries unit, pharmacy, GP, sexual health clinic and other services.

NHS Direct Wales is the backbone of the new NHS 111 Wales service, which is live in four of the seven Welsh health board areas and will, over time, be replaced by 111 entirely.

Iwan Griffiths, Clinical Operations Manager for NHS Direct Wales/NHS 111 Wales, said: “What began as a small team of 50 staff in a Swansea call centre has grown to a 300-strong team of call handlers and clinicians working right across Wales.

“Not only is it a source of health advice and information for the public, but it also helps to triage low acuity patients which come in via 999.

“Of these, around 65% are signposted to a more appropriate health service by our nurse advisors, preserving our ambulances for those who need them most.

“At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, calls from the public to NHS Direct Wales/NHS 111 Wales quadrupled to roughly 160,000 calls per month.”

NHS Direct Wales launched in June 2000 in Swansea and was designed to be a single point of access for health information and advice for the people of Wales.

A second call centre opened in Bangor later that year, which still exists at Ysbyty Gwynedd, supported by a third call centre in Cwmbran. 

A further two sites have since opened to support the operation; one in St Asaph and one at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest.

In 2001, NHS Direct Wales joined forces with England’s NHS Direct service to run a helpline set up in response to the Alder Hey organ scandal.

In 2016, a new 111 service launched in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board area and has since been extended into Hywel Dda, Powys and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board areas.

Rollout in the other three health board areas – Betsi Cadwaladr, Cwm Taf and Cardiff and Vale — will follow, and signal the replacement of NHS Direct Wales entirely.

Iwan said: “NHS Direct Wales has been a trusted source of health information for many years and recently, we’ve seen it start to evolve from the brand we know and love into NHS 111 Wales, the number for which will be free from all telephones, whether landline or mobile.’

“Twenty years has absolutely flown by, but we’re thrilled to have been part of ambulance service history and to have blazed the trail for NHS 111 Wales.”

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, added: “NHS Direct Wales is a critical cog in the ambulance service wheel and we simply couldn’t operate without it.’

“NHS Direct Wales/NHS 111 Wales has arguably been the best tool in our locker when it comes to Covid-19, in particular the Covid-19 symptom checker, which had more than a million visits in its first month.’

“Thank you and congratulations to our amazing call handlers and clinicians on 20 years of making a difference to people in Wales.”

South Western Ambulance Service Gives Thanks on 72nd Birthday

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South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is saying a huge Thank You to all its people, its colleagues across the NHS, and to everyone who has supported the NHS in this challenging year — as the NHS celebrates its 72nd birthday. 

More than seven decades after the NHS was founded on 5 July 1948, the Trust is expressing gratitude to everyone whose dedication, help and support has enabled it to meet the challenge of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  

SWASFT is particularly thankful for its own 4,700 strong team of frontline, operational support and corporate services staff, as well as many others in the NHS who have all helped in the response to patients.

It is also hugely grateful to the thousands of former doctors, nurses and other health service staff who came out of retirement to battle coronavirus, the fellow key workers — from bus drivers and refuse collectors to social care staff and teachers — who have kept the country running and, of course, all those who stopped the spread of the virus by following the expert advice and staying home to save lives.

SWASFT has been supported by fire and rescue service colleagues who have worked alongside frontline teams, driving ambulances and providing much-needed assistance to patients.

We are also hugely grateful and proud of the Trust’s army of volunteer Community First Responders (CFRs) have also had a huge impact in supporting their local communities by attending patients before an ambulance reaches them.

This year has been the most challenging in NHS history with staff working around the clock to tackle coronavirus. Everyone has had a part to play and, in the most difficult days, NHS staff were sustained by the support of the communities they serve.

Individuals and businesses have generously delivered gifts to ambulance stations, and the members of the public have tirelessly shown their appreciation week after week.

Will Warrender CBE, the newly appointed Chief Executive of SWASFT, said: “On the 72nd birthday of the NHS I would like to say a huge thank you to all my colleagues at South Western Ambulance Service, our volunteers, our community, and everyone who has supported us this year.’

“I am proud of what my SWASFT colleagues have achieved in providing emergency and urgent care to so many patients in communities across the South West, whether it be clinical staff on the frontline, in ambulances, or those in the many support and corporate functions whose tireless efforts all keep the organisation running.’

“I am also particularly grateful to our healthcare colleagues in our region’s hospitals, at GP surgeries and pharmacies who have treated countless patients and helped so many others this year.”