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Welsh Ambulance Service Appoints its First Chaplain

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The Welsh Ambulance Service has appointed its first chaplain.

Reverend Mike Shephard, from Carmarthenshire, was appointed to provide a ‘listening ear’ for the 3,000-strong workforce and provide pastoral care to colleagues and their families.

The 73-year-old former probation officer joined the service in January, and quickly and inadvertently became a crucial source of support for staff through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The father-of-two said: “I was a little apprehensive coming into the service because I wasn’t sure what sort of reception I’d have, but everyone has been so positive.’

Rev. Mike Shephard

“The truth is I’m not your typical minister and have gone through periods in my own career of intense doubt, to the point where I left the ministry for some years because I felt I needed to find myself.’

“My role at the ambulance service is about being spiritual but not religious, and providing that listening ear to anyone who needs me, in whatever way that might be.’

“Drawing on this period in my life means I can better empathise and relate to other people who are also at a low ebb.

“I’ve got so much respect for the NHS having been through bowel cancer and everything that brings; this is my way of paying something back.”

Revd Shephard, originally from Tredegar, Monmouthshire, left school at 15 to train to be a miner and spent a year in the pit at Oakdale Colliery.

It was at this time he joined a local church, and inspired by the life and example of his then minister, decided to embark on the same path.

At 17, he went to study Theology at the North Wales Baptist College in Bangor and by the tender age of 21, had become the UK’s youngest ordained minister.

Revd Shephard held pastorates in North Devon, West Glamorgan, Radnorshire, Gwent and Carmarthenshire while holding down a career as a probation officer and later, a family court adviser.

He said: “The skills I acquired as a social worker are very much transferrable into my role as a minister, and now chaplain.’

“You’re dealing with people who have been through the most traumatic experiences, and are supporting the extended ambulance service family during times of injury, illness and bereavement.’

“I consider myself an outlet for the thoughts and emotions of staff and a crutch through their darkest times; it’s actually very humbling.’

Rev. Mike Shephard

“In this role, you have to be kind, caring and compassionate, and that’s definitely the hallmark of the Welsh Ambulance Service.”

Wendy Herbert, the Trust’s Assistant Director of Quality and Nursing, who helped recruit Revd Shephard into the role, said: “We had been exploring the idea of a chaplain for many years having seen the benefits it’s had for our police and fire service colleagues, but only recently has the idea come to fruition.

“Ambulance work has become increasingly complex and demanding, and the appointment of a chaplain was designed to strengthen the support offer for our staff.

“Revd Shephard joined us in the New Year and then the Covid-19 pandemic ensued, and he quickly became a fundamental source of support for staff, who really look forward to his weekly columns on the Intranet.’

“We’re delighted he’s joined our ambulance service family and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.”

Revd Shephard, along with others, was instrumental in establishing a drop-in centre at Carmarthen’s English Baptist Church which, 32 years on, continues to host Christmas Day lunch for more than 130 people who otherwise would be on their own during the festive period. 

“I believe that this is what churches are really all about,” he added.

In his spare time, he enjoys gardening and walking holidays which have taken him to various parts of the world, including to the Maltese Islands, Canary Islands and Spain.

He and wife Gwendda have a son, 51, a daughter, 49, and six grandchildren.

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.”

Barry’s Half-Century of Saving Lives in North Wales

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An ambulance service stalwart is celebrating a half-century of saving lives in North Wales.

Fifty years ago today, on 08 June 1970, an 18-year-old Barry Davies from Drury, Flintshire, joined the ambulance service inspired by a childhood in the St John Ambulance Cadets.

Barry, now 68, began his career as an Ambulance Technician and has seen the organisation evolve from a small-scale local operation to Wales’ national ambulance service.

Barry accepts an award for 40 years’ service at a staff awards ceremony.

He now works for the Trust’s Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service, based in Wrexham.

Barry said: “I joined the St John Ambulance Cadets when I was 12, so going on to work for the ambulance service was a natural progression.’

“Back then you were an ‘ambulance man’ and you did everything; the emergencies, the non-urgent hospital transfers and everything in between.’

Barry as an Ambulance Technician at Flint Ambulance Station in the 1970s.

“Eventually, I went off to Wrenbury in Cheshire to do my Ambulance Technician training and that’s how I spent my first 30 years in the service, based out of Flint Ambulance Station.’

“The call that stands out in my mind is the time we delivered a baby in a card shop in Flint.’

“You see everything in this job – nothing surprises me anymore!”

In 2007, Barry transferred to Mold Ambulance Station and was one of the first to join the Trust’s new High Dependency Service, now known as the Urgent Care Service.

He later joined the Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service as an Ambulance Care Assistant having retired briefly and returned to the organisation.

Barry said: “I’ve watched our ambulance service evolve from Clwyd Ambulance Service to the North Wales Ambulance Service to the Welsh Ambulance Service it is today.’

“When I look back, I feel immensely proud. It’s absolutely flown by but I have such fond memories.”

Barry’s wife Lindsey is an Emergency Medical Technician based at Dobshill, Flintshire.

Barry and his Emergency Medical Technician wife, Lindsey Davies.

Lindsey, originally of Afonwen, also has 35 years’ service under her belt –— together the couple have served the people of North Wales for 85 years combined.

The pair enjoy gardening and travelling, and celebrated the New Year in South Africa.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Fifty years is an incredible length of service and we’re so grateful and fortunate to have a colleague of long-standing like Barry.’

Jason Killens,
Chief Executive,
Welsh Ambulance Service

“Barry has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years, many of whom would not be walking around Wales today if it were not for his skill and dedication.

“He’s an extraordinary man who has committed his life to making sure people are taken care of.”

Wayne Davies, the Trust’s Locality Manager for Wrexham in Flintshire, said: “Barry is a well-liked and well-respected colleague, having served communities across North Wales for 50 years.

“Together with Lindsey, they are an incredible duo, and we thank them both for their service.”

Joe Lewis, General Manager for the Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service in North Wales, added: “CongratulationsBarry on a half-century of service.

“The people in North Wales are lucky to have you and long may you continue to serve them.”

Barry will celebrate 50 years’ service today with socially-distanced tea and cake with his colleagues on station.

“They’re still making me bring the cakes though,” he added.

Covid-19: Have Your Say on Welsh Ambulance Service’s Response

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The Welsh Ambulance Service is asking the public to have a say on its response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Trust is inviting people to share their experience of accessing the service, whether through 999, 111 or its Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service.

It is also keen to gather the public’s views on ease of access to information, as well as how they found the process of offering to help with equipment and volunteering.

Rachel Marsh, the Trust’s Director of Strategy, Performance and Planning, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been the greatest challenge in health and social care for a generation.

“We’ve made every effort to provide the best possible service while in the throes of this global health emergency, which has included enlisting the support of the military and the redeployment of more than 200 colleagues into key areas of the service, like 111.

“Patients are at the heart of our service, so we’re keen to hear about how this has felt on the ground by the people we serve, people in Wales.

“We’re not out of the woods yet but as a forward-thinking ambulance service, we’re starting to turn our attention to lessons learned and what more we could have done and can still do.

“You don’t have to have accessed our service to take the survey, and any and all feedback is welcome.”

Click here to take the survey, the closing date for which is Friday 12 June 2020.