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DJ Swaps Decks for Defibrillator to Turn Volunteer for Welsh Ambulance Service

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A North Wales radio presenter has swapped the decks for a defibrillator by becoming a volunteer for the Welsh Ambulance Service.

Oli Kemp, one half of ‘Lois & Oli’ on Heart North and Mid Wales, has just completed his training as a Community First Responder so that he can administer life-saving first aid to people in his community.

Oli, originally from London, now living near Llangollen, Denbighshire, has had a long-held ambition to become a first responder, ever since the sudden death of his 20-month-old daughter in 2012.

Oli Kemp in (WAST) Community First Responder uniform

He explained how the COVID-19 pandemic presented a perfect opportunity to pursue his passion, saying: “I’ve always loved the idea of becoming a paramedic but my career as a radio presenter has never really allowed me to pursue it.’

“I think lockdown provided a lot of people with clarity on what they want to do, because you want to look back on your life and to have achieved something.’

“We moved to Wales seven years ago and the community has been very good to us. This is my way of paying something back.”

Oli’s daughter, Willow, was being treated for a chronic lung infection at Manchester Children’s Hospital in 2012 when she suffered a cardiac arrest and sadly died. It was this life-changing event which inspired Oli to think about a career in the ambulance service and which also compelled his wife to train as a nurse.

Oli said: “Willow is my main inspiration for doing this, and also my wife’s, who now works as a nurse at Denbigh Community Hospital. That period in our life had its challenges, but we also learnt a lot about the NHS and how it works.’

“The community we live in is very rural, and I imagine that sometimes it’s difficult for an ambulance to get there quickly.

“Anything I can do to help people in the time before the ambulance arrives will hopefully make a difference.”

Community First Responders are volunteers who attend 999 calls in their community and administer first aid in the precious first minutes before an ambulance arrives.

They are trained by the Welsh Ambulance Service to administer first aid, including oxygen therapy and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as the use of a defibrillator.

Oli said: “It is a bit nerve-wracking, especially when I think about the prospect of attending my first cardiac arrest, but that’s why you do your training.

“The fact that I’m helping people in my own community means there’s some familiarity there, so that helps to take the edge off. I’ll fit the volunteering around the radio show, so will likely do mornings and weekends.’

“My colleagues at Heart are really proud of me; there was definitely some gentle ribbing when I told them I’d qualified, but they’re chuffed I’m doing something positive.”

Glyn Thomas, the Trust’s Alternative Responder Manager, said: “Every second counts is an emergency, and the role that first responders play in initiating that chain of survival can literally mean the difference between life or death.’

A group of new Community First Response volunteers from WAST

“Oli’s one of seven new volunteers to join the service in North Wales, and we’re pleased that he has turned a tragedy into something positive to help people in their hour of need.’

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant we’ve had to think differently about the way we deliver training to volunteers, and Oli was part of a cohort of new recruits to complete a brand new training package, which included some e-learning.’

“We’re taking some time now to evaluate that training, so while we’re not recruiting volunteers right now, we look forward to opening our books again in the coming months.”

Glyn added: “Volunteering at the Welsh Ambulance Service has come a long way in the last two decades.’

“Our volunteers don’t just provide life-saving support at events such as cardiac arrests; they’re also trained to deal with a broader range of medical emergencies, including non-injured fallers.’

“There are new and exciting plans afoot as we further embrace our volunteers as part of the #TeamWAST family, and we extend a warm welcome to our new recruits, including Oli.”

You can learn more about the role of Community First Responders here at http://www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk/en/96

Annual Carers Survey Launched by Welsh Ambulance

If you look after a family member or friend, then the Welsh Ambulance Service wants to hear from you during August as part of its Carers Survey 2020.

Caring for anybody with a physical or mental disability, a person with substance misuse issues or providing extra help as someone grows older can be extremely testing and impact on the carer’s own life and wellbeing.

The Ambulance Service would love to hear your experiences of caring — especially if you’ve had cause to use any of their services such as emergency care response, falls team, non-emergency patient transport or community engagement work.

Executive Director of Quality and Nursing for Welsh Ambulance, Claire Roche said: “Gathering personal experiences from carers is vital to us and will help build greater understanding and shape how we meet their needs in the future.’

Claire Roche,
Executive Director of Quality & Nursing,
WAST

“I would urge anybody in a care role to make their voice heard and let us know via the survey how they have found our response when they have needed to call.”

Run by the Patient Experience and Community Involvement (PECI) team, the survey is in its second year.

Matt James from the PECI team added: “Reaching out to those who are caring for loved ones can be a lifeline.’

“To provide a safe forum and support network is essential in helping people feel understood and that they are not alone.

“Our annual survey will help us to further understand the issues faced by people we may not physically be able to reach.”

Follow the work Welsh Ambulance do with carers on Twitter @WelshAmbPIH.

To take the survey visit https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/1_WASTCarers2020/

Welsh Ambulance Service’s Work with Dementia Community Celebrated in TV Documentary

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The Welsh Ambulance Service’s work with the dementia community is being celebrated in a new documentary series which explores the ground-breaking advances being made to help people with the disease.

A link to the docu-series available at the end of this article.

Hope in the Age of Dementia examines how the Trust has enlisted the support of people with dementia to help shape and deliver training across the workforce.

The programme, a joint venture by the ITN Productions and Alzheimer’s Disease International, also hears from leaders in the field of neuroscience, research and drug discovery.

Alison Johnstone, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Programme Manager for Dementia, said: “For people living with dementia, using an ambulance – whether it’s for an emergency or a planned trip – can often be a stressful experience.

Alison Johnstone,
Programme Manager for Dementia, WAST,
Appearing on Hope in the Age of Dementia

“We’re really trying to understand the needs of people living with dementia so that we can strengthen and improve our services in future.’

“What’s been wonderful is that people living with dementia are involved in that work and are front and centre delivering that training with us, and for us.”

People with dementia have also been invited into the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centres to see how 999 calls are triaged, as well as to ambulance stations to offer a view on how dementia-friendly they find the vehicles, equipment and uniforms.

Linda Willis, of Newport, who was diagnosed with dementia aged 61, has been among those involved in the work.

“It’s given me such a confidence boost, I can’t praise the ambulance service enough,” she said.

“They actually listen to what people with dementia want and need from the service, and have delivered it, and that means so much.”

A still from ITN Productions and Alzheimer’s Disease International’s new documentary series, ‘Hope in the Age of Dementia’

Dementia affects more than 50 million people worldwide and this number is expected to more than triple by 2050.

Funding from Welsh Government has helped make much of the Trust’s work a reality.

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “The Welsh Ambulance Service’s innovative work to improve the experiences of people living with dementia exemplifies the aims set out in our Dementia Action Plan for Wales, recognising the different ways in which people living with dementia require support.

“This co-productive approach to developing and delivering training shows the value of listening to people living with dementia and rightly ensures services are person-centred.”
Claire Roche, the Trust’s Executive Director of Quality and Nursing, added: “Knowing how to recognise dementia and respond appropriately can make all the difference to a patient’s support, care and treatment.

“That’s why we’re so committed to hearing first-hand about their experience, so that we can make our services even better for them.

“This programme is an incredible opportunity for the Welsh Ambulance Service to showcase our dementia work and promote the exciting dementia programme we have in Wales.”  

Hope in the Age of Dementia can be viewed here.