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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.”

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.

Welsh Ambulance Service Celebrates Volunteers’ Week 2020

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The Welsh Ambulance Service has been celebrating the work of its volunteers as part of national Volunteers’ Week.

Volunteers’ Week (01-07 June) is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

More than 1,400 volunteers give up their time to support the ambulance service in Wales, including 1,200 Community First Responders and 170 Volunteer Car Drivers.

Community First Responders are trained to deliver life-saving first aid prior to the ambulance service’s arrival.

Volunteer Car Drivers use their own vehicles to transport people to routine hospital appointments, including renal dialysis, oncology and outpatients appointments.

In 2019/20, they made 134,354 journeys across Wales and covered more than four million miles – the equivalent of driving to the moon and back eight times.

Elsewhere, Community First Responders are members of the public who are trained to deliver life-saving first aid to people in their own community prior to the ambulance service’s arrival. 

As a critical part of the chain of survival, Community First Responders play an active part is saving many lives across Wales every year.  

They have the equipment and know-how to administer treatment in those precious first minutes of an emergency, including CPR and defibrillation in the event of a cardiac arrest.

Last year, Community First Responders attended 29,000 emergencies, arriving at the scene of the most serious ‘Red’ calls in an average of six minutes and 49 seconds.

Jason Killens,
Chief Executive,
Welsh Ambulance Service

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Our volunteers – be they in our car service or our Community First Responder group – give up their time to help us help our communities. 

“The time they give is substantial and makes a real difference to our patients across Wales 

“Without the support of our volunteers and their families and friends who support them to volunteer with us, we simply couldn’t operate the service that we do.

“The commitment from our volunteers through the Covid-19 pandemic has been incredible, and we would like to extend a huge thank you for their time and commitment, not just this Volunteers’ Week but year-round.”

Volunteer Car Drivers transport patients to and from routine hospital appointments using their own vehicle.

Martin Woodford, the Trust’s Chair, added: “As an ambulance service, we depend hugely on the contribution of our volunteers, come rain or shine, and never more so than during this frightening pandemic.’

“On behalf of our Board, I would like to express my enormous gratitude to all of our selfless volunteers, whether Community First Responders, Volunteer Car Drivers, or people who have simply stepped forward to help us in any way they can during these difficult times.”

“We are forever in your debt,” Martin added.

As well as Community First Responders and Volunteer Car Drivers, the Trust also relies on the support of St John Cymru Wales and uniformed first responders from the three Welsh fire and rescue services.

It is also supported by ‘BASICS’ doctors from the British Association of Immediate Care, who provide pre-hospital care at the scene of more complex emergencies.

To volunteer for the Welsh Ambulance Service, visit www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk 
and head to the ‘Get Involved’ page. 

Visit http://volunteersweek.org for more information.