South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) Chief Executive Will Hancock helped raise more than £5k for staff in ambulance services across the UK at the weekend by completing the fastest zip wire in the world and climbing Mount Snowdon.
He joined forces with colleagues from the College of Paramedics, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) and East Midlands Ambulance Service to help support The Ambulance Staff Charity (TASC) on an action-packed expedition in North Wales.
First up on the Ultimate Fundraising Challenge on Saturday was Zip World’s Velocity 2, a zip wire which travels at speeds of over 100mph and has been described as the ‘nearest thing to flying’.
Later in the evening the group laced their walking boots, turned on their torches and trekked 3,560ft to the top of Snowdon – the highest mountain in England and Wales.
Will completed the challenge alongside Anna Parry, Deputy Managing Director of AACE, Kerry Gulliver, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at East Midlands Ambulance Service, and Tracy Nicholls, Chief Executive of the College of Paramedics.
The idea was the brainchild of Ms Nicholls who wanted to embark on an event to highlight the impact of pressures on ambulance staff, particularly in light of COVID-19, and the importance of ensuring the support they require is there when needed most.
The funds raised through their efforts will go towards initiatives to help care for the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of the UK’s ambulance community.
“This challenge ticked a lot of boxes for me and I would do it all again in a heartbeat, despite being pretty nervous as the clocked ticked down towards the zip wire,” said Will, who is the lead CEO for mental health for UK ambulance services.
“Anyone who knows me will know that was certainly out of my comfort zone, but the camaraderie was fantastic and the activities were exhilarating.
“TASC is a charity doing hugely important work at a time when it has never been more essential given the challenges our staff have faced for such a sustained period and continue to.
“In my role as the national lead for mental health for ambulance services, I really do understand the issues and just how important the work of the charity is and I am delighted to be part of a team which has helped raise funds but also much-needed awareness.
“As I said before the challenge, I want to encourage everyone in the ambulance sector to ask for help if they need it – it is the hardest step but the most important.”
Anyone interested in making a donation can still do so via the group’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tracy-anna-will-kerry.
A pioneering initiative led by South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) is helping patients receive the right treatment more quickly – and has so far seen more than 30,000 people avoid unnecessary transfers to emergency departments.
The urgent care pathways project, established in 2019, sees ambulance service clinicians take a leading role in assessing and treating patients over the phone or in their homes when handling 111 or 999 calls and determining their next destination for ongoing care.
It has led to many patients being treated at home, referred onto their GP, transported to a treatment centre or admitted directly into a specialist hospital service covering medical, surgical, paediatric, respiratory, frailty or mental health needs.
More than 30,000 patients to-date who would previously have been conveyed to busy emergency departments for further assessment and investigations have had their journeys changed.
The system has “significantly improved” patient experience by reducing delays accessing the care they need and has been referred to as a “game-changer” in reducing pressures on emergency departments at the front door of hospitals.
It also proved an invaluable asset during the COVID-19 pandemic for managing residents in care homes and avoiding the need for hospital admissions through treatment at home, referral to community services or by-passing emergency departments.
The project focuses on moderately unwell patients with medical conditions, older patients who are frail with chronic conditions who are at risk of falls, those with respiratory conditions such as COPD and asthma, people in mental health crises or children who require a specialist paediatric assessment.
The urgent care pathways area management team: Illtyd Hollard, Wendy Stonehouse, Stephen Daniel and Karen Plumbley
Ambulance staff are supported to assess patients at home and take a lead role in working with GPs and consultants in hospitals to determine a patient’s next steps.
They have also piloted paramedic-led blood testing at the bedside on frail patients which saw 58% avoid hospital admission as a result of more comprehensive assessments in the community.
In addition, an online directory – SCAS Connect – was developed to categorise all of the urgent care options available across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire to assist staff with locating clinical and support services and making the right clinical decision in the community.
“We have known for some time just how much scope there was to focus on the role of ambulance services as ‘care navigators’ given the fact our mobile clinicians are dispersed across vast geographies 24/7 and in a unique position to facilitate the most appropriate care for patients,” said Chris Jackson, a specialist paramedic and urgent care pathways lead at SCAS.
“The need for change was clear in Lord Carter’s review of ambulance services in 2018 which urged better use of GP and community facilities to avoid unnecessary ambulance conveyance, access to a directory of services, greater clinical and managerial support for ambulance staff and new technology.
“I am proud to say at SCAS we have taken this challenge on and produced a programme which is truly changing how we care for patients by enhancing the skills of our paramedics, ensuring patients get the right care as quickly as possible and reducing the burden on emergency departments.”
Mark Ainsworth, director of operations at SCAS, said: “This is one of the biggest clinical transformational pieces of work ever undertaken to deliver on the core principles of specialist practice – right care, right place, right time.
“By empowering staff to be confident in decision-making, ensuring the options available for patients are clear to our clinicians and moving away from a default approach of transfer to emergency departments, we are seeing the delivery of better care and a more integrated system.”
In an extension of this work in February SCAS became the first ambulance service in the country to supply COVID-19 patients with home oxygen monitoring kits if they didn’t require immediate admission to hospital but were at higher risk of complications.
In the same month the Trust introduced COVID-19 testing of all 999 patients visited at home – including those without symptoms – if they required transfer to hospital to speed up handovers and release crews more quickly.
Dr John Black, medical director at SCAS, added: “The urgent care pathways initiative at SCAS has significantly improved care for patients and has shown better, more appropriate management of patients is achievable.
“It is a real game-changer when it comes to reducing pressure in emergency departments, as is evident from the avoidance of 30,000 journeys, and that is of particular importance given the constant strain being seen across the country.
“SCAS is a leader in this field and we were able to accelerate progress in this space significantly during the pandemic with our pulse oximetry and lateral flow testing pilots which demonstrated innovation in the ambulance sector at an extremely challenging time.”
Although COVID restrictions have ended in many settings in England from today (Monday, 19 July), the NHS has reminded the public that everyone accessing or visiting healthcare settings must continue to wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our objective at South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has always been to protect both our staff and patients and this focus will remain the same, therefore, we are not changing our current practice when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE) and observing “Hands, Face, Space”.
This means that masks, gloves, aprons and eye protection will be worn when attending all patients. Higher levels of PPE will be necessary for patients who are COVID-19 positive or require treatment that can result in the release of airborne particles from the mouth.
We will continue to wear masks while travelling in both the front and rear of ambulances on emergency and non-emergency vehicles. The only exception to this is if a member of staff is alone in any of these spaces.
Patients in our care will be asked to wear a mask when possible to do so.
Volunteers from South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) attended a special NHS Big Tea event at Buckingham Palace today hosted by the Duke of Cambridge.
Major Emma Allen MBE, Mark Potts and Anthony Larks, who are all Community First Responders (CFRs), spent the day meeting and talking to guests who included NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens.
The event was organised by NHS Charities Together, of which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are patrons, as a thank you to NHS staff and volunteers for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic and to mark the health service’s 73rd birthday.
It took place in the Palace gardens and ran alongside thousands of afternoon teas held nationwide in homes, back gardens, schools, hospitals and community settings to show support for the NHS.
CFRs Emma, Anthony and Mark, along with more than 1,000 other CFRs and Co-Responders at SCAS, are members of the public trained to support the ambulance service primarily by responding to medical emergencies and sometimes providing lifesaving first aid to patients before paramedics arrive.
CFRs also assist with ongoing patient care at the scene and attend more than 30,000 incidents every year. They are funded solely by South Central Ambulance Charity, which provides equipment, training and is responsible for the vehicle fleet.
“I never imagined when I signed up to be a CFR that I’d be having tea at Buckingham Palace,” said Anthony, who is from Bracknell and began volunteering and fundraising at the start of the pandemic – raising £9,000 for the charity in addition to the hours he has given to caring for patients.
“It’s been truly amazing to have met the Duke of Cambridge today and to recognise the amazing work of the NHS – I’m honoured and humbled to have the opportunity to work alongside our NHS heroes and see the work they do daily, it’s incredible.
“I’ve witnessed selfless professionalism and constant care by attending paramedics and emergency clinicians. Their efforts never faltered at a time of critical need.”
NHS Charities Together recently provided a £410k grant to South Central Ambulance Charity to fund new projects and equipment to support CFRs, as well as new LUCAS 3 cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) devices which are now out on the road with SCAS clinicians supporting patients in cardiac arrest.
“We have more than 1,000 CFRs and Co-Responders who attend emergency incidents across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire and they are such an important part of our service,” said Vanessa Casey (pictured), Chief Executive of South Central Ambulance Charity.
“They are usually first on scene with the patient and able to begin taking basic observations and supporting them prior to the arrival of the ambulance. They all do such a fantastic job for our organisation so I am delighted they were recognised in this way with an invite to the NHS Big Tea with the Duke of Cambridge.”
She added: “SCAS receives no statutory funding for our CFR volunteers and relies on voluntary donations to the charity to provide the equipment, vehicles and training to enable these volunteers to respond.
“We are extremely grateful to all of our supporters for the part they play in helping us to fund and maintain this service and to NHS Charities Together whose grants have really helped us to push to programme forward.”
Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together, which has raised more than £150 million to support NHS staff, volunteers and patients through the pandemic, said: “If the NHS has been the backbone of the nation during the most challenging of times, then NHS staff have been its beating heart. I’m in awe of NHS staff who have dealt with so much over the last year, we would have been lost without them.
“As an independent national charity representing NHS charities across the UK, we are proud that we have been able to support the NHS to do more than would otherwise be possible at the most challenging time in its history.
“The public have responded amazingly, which we can see through the money they have donated and the thousands taking part in our NHS Big Tea today. That support is more important than ever with the pandemic having taken a toll on NHS staff. We need to continue to be there to support the staff and volunteers who have done so much for us.”
South Central Ambulance Charity has been inviting people to “raise a cuppa” to SCAS and the wider NHS today and donate £5 while sinking their brew. People can still do this by texting SCAS 5 to 70085 and are urged to tag five friends on social media to do the same.
Separately, the charity is seeking a team of 40 challengers willing to abseil 320ft down Portsmouth’s iconic Spinnaker Tower in September. The charity first embarked on this challenge last year and raised £14k for SCAS with a target this time of £17k. Find out more and download a joining pack here.
South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is currently under “immense pressure” with demand on 999 and 111 services at levels normally seen during the busy New Year period.
SCAS, which provides emergency and urgent care to more than four million people across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, is currently receiving almost 2,000 calls a day to 999 at a time it would normally see around 1,600.
In addition, the number of calls to urgent medical advice line NHS 111 are at more than 4,500 a day – up from 3,000 a day pre-pandemic.
The service is also experiencing an increase in the time taken to hand patients over to hospitals due to capacity issues at some hospitals within the South Central region.
The rise in demand has been largely unrelated to COVID-19 so far, though the increasing number of cases in the region is “a concern” to the service given current levels of activity – as is the resilience of staff across the organisation.
“The Trust is experiencing immense pressure on services due to intense demand on both 999 and 111, while capacity issues at some of our hospitals are impacting on our ability to handover our patients immediately upon arrival which restricts our ability to respond to waiting patients in a timely manner,” said Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS.
“Our activity is now well above the seasonal predicted level and is more in line with the numbers we would be seeing over the busy New Year period when dealing with winter illnesses, consequences of festivities and people who have delayed accessing healthcare over Christmas.
“We are also now at a point where staff have been flat out managing the effects of the pandemic for 18 months, so they are feeling the strain in the face of relentless pressure.”
He added: “The surge in demand has so far not been associated with COVID, so any increase in cases of the infection is a concern given how that may impact us further and we are now seeing rising numbers across the region, particularly in Reading, Portsmouth and Southampton.”
A number of actions have been taken at SCAS to increase capacity to meet demand, including the redeployment of clinically-trained staff into frontline operational roles, training additional staff to work in the 111 call centre and additional resources from approved private ambulance providers.
With pressure high on both services, people are being urged to ensure they only use 999 for life-threatening emergencies and 111 for urgent medical advice while utilising the full range of other services for less urgent problems including 111.nhs.uk, urgent treatment centres, GPs and pharmacies.
“We will continue to provide the best possible care to all of our patients but we would appreciate any efforts people can make to think carefully about alternatives available for less urgent problems,” said Mr Ainsworth (pictured).
“There are still many occasions when we receive calls from patients who could have their needs met through urgent treatment centres or their GPs, sometimes even pharmacies, so we would greatly appreciate the support of the public while we manage this period of intensity.”
He added: “I also want to send a message of thanks to all of our staff and volunteers for continuing to provide quality care in challenging circumstances – we are incredibly proud of them.”
An ambulance service app which provides cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidance and locates the nearest defibrillator saw a 1,300 per cent increase in downloads following Danish football star Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.
The Save a Life app, developed by South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), uses GPS navigation to locate the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED) as well as a list of others in the area and features videos, instructions and a question-and-answer section.
The subject of CPR was thrust into the spotlight this month when Inter Milan ace Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during his country’s clash with Finland and had immediate life-saving assistance from players and medics.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. CPR and defibrillators – devices which deliver an electric current to shock the heart muscle – enable anyone to provide immediate assistance to people prior to the arrival of emergency services.
Around 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) occur in the UK every year and emergency services attempt resuscitation in around half – but just one in 10 people survive to hospital discharge.
However, chances of survival are two to three times higher with immediate bystander CPR – and a report published earlier this year by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) found 35.5% of patients who received CPR from a bystander survived to hospital discharge.
The boost in interest in the app comes after data at SCAS showed requests for training and information on how to perform CPR and use AEDs, which are now stationed in many local communities, were down 67% last year and 86.5% this year in the South Central region compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
“The shock of the incident involving Christian Eriksen and its very public nature has had such a significant impact on people across the world and we, along with all other well-wishers, were delighted to see him stabilised so quickly and now discharged,” said Nicola Dunbar, Head of Community Engagement and Training at SCAS.
“The effects are clear not just from the support Christian has received internationally but also as far as the likes of our own organisation, where downloads of our Save a Life CPR and AED app rose by more than 1,000 per cent.
“Prior to this we had been planning to issue a warning to say the drop in contact from communities for information and guidance on CPR and AEDs from us was very concerning given the already poor survival rate from cardiac arrest in the UK.
“With community engagement and training events, evening classes and child and youth sessions having not been possible throughout the pandemic, a knock-on effect has been less public awareness and, therefore, a decline in the requests we normally see for CPR guidance and the use of defibrillators.
“The interest we are now seeing in our materials is already addressing this, though, and is an example of the way Christian’s personal story is already making positive change. From having his own life saved, he will no doubt now save the lives of many others.”
Ms Dunbar said the swift action shown in the case of Eriksen could make the same difference to anyone in any walk of life.
“This was a stark reminder of the instant and impromptu nature of cardiac arrest and highlighted the importance of quick thinking – the decisive interventions by all involved saved the player’s life,” she said.
“A person’s chances of survival drop by 10% for every minute that they are not receiving CPR, so speed of response is vital and that was evident here from the moment his teammates and medics intervened.
“The message for anyone is that they have the individual capability to display the same quick thinking, the same action and make the same difference to someone they see in the street, at work or a family member at home.”
Professor Charles Deakin, Divisional Medical Director at SCAS and lead for resuscitation, said: “A person in cardiac arrest will not survive if they don’t receive assistance. Learning how to perform CPR before you need to use it and how to use an AED – and where they are located in your area – will give someone the best chance of survival.”
Click here for a range of information and resources including videos on performing CPR and using AEDs, along with a video on CPR guidance in relation to COVID-19.