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Welcome to SWASFT

February 2021

Go the extra mile - outrun an ambulance!

02 February 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is giving people a new way to beat lockdown blues and raise money for the NHS.

Go the Extra Mile - Outrun an Ambulance’ is a virtual challenge for people to conquer the mileage an ambulance covers while responding to emergencies.

They can complete the distance plus one mile over a period of time by walking, running, cycling, or riding anything else that is self-propelled.

People can choose the distance they want to do based on the mileage clocked-up by a crew from a selected ambulance station during the course of a typical shift.

Or they can attempt to outrun the average mileage of all of the featured ambulance stations, which is 90 miles.

Funds raised for South Western Ambulance Charity will help to support the welfare of SWASFT staff and volunteers, and to help the trust continue to run CPR training for the public and provide defibrillators in local communities.

Around £2,000 has been raised so far from the challenge which began earlier this month.

Zoe Larter, head of the charity, said: “Our ambulance staff and volunteers really are going the extra mile to keep us all safe during these challenging times.

“Help us go the extra mile for them and the communities they serve by taking on the ‘Outrun an Ambulance’ challenge!

“It’s designed to suit all people and all abilities. You don’t need to complete the challenge in one go, and you can do it as a team with each individual covering part of the distance.”

The concept was conceived by SWASFT Emergency Care Assistant Shannon Witts who is shielding during the pandemic.

She and her family are attempting to outrun the total mileage of 196 for the three ambulance stations featured within the Gloucestershire area (Stroud, Cinderford and Moreton in Marsh).  

SWASFT asks people to do the challenge according to the lockdown rules which allow everyone to exercise once a day in their local area. It also recommends people stick to well-lit areas if they choose to exercise outdoors after dark.

For more information and to set-up a personal fundraising page for the challenge, click here.

For updates and to share experiences of doing the challenge visit the charity’s Twitter page and use the hashtag #icanoutrunanambulance

Attacks on ambulance staff leading to prosecutions

12 February 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is warning that anyone who assaults or abuses its people could face prosecution.

Ambulance staff experienced 147 incidents of violence and aggression from patients and other members of the public in January, up 6% on last year. These included 51 incidents of verbal abuse, 37 cases of aggressive behaviour, and 31 physical assaults. 

A man was jailed for six months on 28 January following his assault on Paramedic Matt Bryant who was called to treat him in Plymouth.

Matt said: “The male was extremely aggressive towards me and my crew mate. So we backed off to request police attendance. Then he slammed the passenger door of the ambulance onto my foot.

“I was taken to hospital and X-rayed, and ligament damage was diagnosed. I was unable to put any weight on the foot for a week, and I was off work for a month.

“We are working so hard to help people during a global pandemic. But assaults are becoming more of a regular occurrence, and they have a significant impact on us. 

“I spent almost 10 years working as a prison officer, and the levels of aggression towards ambulance staff are almost at the same level.

“I'm thankful that the criminal justice system has taken my assault seriously.”

A woman was fined and given a conditional discharge on 13 January after punching a male paramedic in the stomach during an incident in Westbury, Wiltshire.

A man was fined and given a conditional caution on 23 December after headbutting Operations Officer Tim Ross-Smith at the scene of a road traffic incident in Bristol.

Tim said: “This was the first time in 16 years of frontline working that I’ve been assaulted. In my role I regularly support staff who have been assaulted and see the impact it has on them. 

“Luckily thanks to my experience and training, I saw it coming and managed to move to reduce the force of the headbutt. It was a relatively minor assault, but my head was sore afterwards.

“Thank you to Avon & Somerset Police for investigating the incident and keeping me updated throughout.”

SWASFT staff reported 1,584 violence and aggression incidents against them during 2020, up 64% compared to 2019. 

Paramedic Mike Jones, who is SWASFT’s Violence Reduction Lead, said: “Sadly our people continue to be attacked and abused every day while they are serving the communities of the South West and saving lives.

“We are also seeing regular occurrences of members of the public spitting at our staff and weaponising coronavirus.

“Any such incident can have a serious and lasting impact on them, their families and loved ones.

“It is unacceptable to abuse and attack our staff, and we won’t tolerate it.

“We take whatever is necessary to protect our people from harm, including doing all we can to ensure offenders are prosecuted through the criminal justice system.

“Please respect our people, and help them to help you.”

The #Unacceptable campaign, launched in 2018, aims to highlight the abuse and assaults faced by emergency services workers while on the job.

Ambulance colleagues share their LGBT+ stories

24 February 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is celebrating equality and diversity within its workforce and across the region throughout LGBT+ History Month.

The Trust believes having a diverse and inclusive team of colleagues and volunteers makes it a positive organisation to be part of and enhances its service to patients across the South West.

Two SWASFT staff colleagues have shared their LGBT+ stories to raise awareness and encourage solidarity.

Sharifa Hashem recently became SWASFT’s first-ever Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. She chose to reveal her story based on this year’s focus on unsung people and intersectionality.

Sharifa said: “My history has some complex issues, even though my day-to-day life is recognisable to many. I work in an office-based job, live with my partner; we have two pet dogs and enjoy travelling. The complexity behind that is that I was born Muslim, I am gay, my partner is female, and I am Arab British living in Devon.

“I was born in Bahrain and grew up there until the age of 11, in the midst of civil unrest and uprisings in the country. We arrived in the UK in the winter of 1996 to unfamiliar surroundings and a school system that I wasn’t able to participate in without the necessary language skills. As a child who is a political refuge, I soon realised that my ‘otherness’ was both visible and challenging to those around me.

“I realised in order for me to achieve my potential I would need to better my language skills, so I set about learning through reading. I started reading books with one word and a picture, progressing to books with simple sentences, onto books with paragraphs and a year from that I was in real danger of having read every book in the school library!

“My history meant that I was interested in people and the way the world around them impacted their lives. I completed a BSc in Psychology, followed by an MA in Gender and Identity in the Middle East (Exon) and an MPhil in Social Policy. Then I worked as a support worker for young adults in social care settings and I started a human rights group, which travelled to places like The United Nations and US State Department. Eventually I started as the Patient Engagement Manager for SWASFT, leading on the delivery of over 300 events a year, including pride events and cultural celebrations. Today, I’m in a new role as Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

“My commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion is a very personal journey. I know first-hand how it feels to be ‘othered’ and voiceless. I also know how it feels to overcome obstacles and feel supported. My journey to get here was supported by countless helping hands, from my school librarian who always knew which book to suggest, to my teachers who read my university application, to my colleagues who read my job statements and those who mentored and supported me.

“My visibility is not a choice; it is part of what makes me who I am. While I may have wished to be less visible growing up, I now realise my visibility may allow others to see opportunities that they had not considered before. Visibility matters, equality matters, your voice matters so make it heard.”

Tom Wing is an Operations Officer for Gloucestershire. He has spoken about his experiences of attitudes towards his sexuality at home and in the workplace.

He said: “Growing up at the bottom of the South Wales valleys, I always knew something about me was different. When I began questioning my feelings, which undoubtedly ended-up including my sexuality, a wave of fear and dread engulfed me. It took me five years before I felt comfortable and willing to 'come out of the closet' to my parents.

“During my childhood I can recall the derogatory terms and references my grandparents made surrounding the LGBT community. On several occasions my grandfather would tell me to walk properly as I looked like 'one of those puffs'. Oh little did he really know...

“Scared of how everyone would react, I kept my sexuality a secret from my family and even my closest friends. It wasn't until I went to university in Bristol to study to be a paramedic that I experienced the freedom associated with moving away from a small Welsh town and felt I could be myself.

“My career with the ambulance service started as a student at a small station, which was populated by 'old school' paramedics. Although my sexuality was never questioned or an issue, I felt I could never fully be myself for fear they would have an issue. I didn't want it to jeopardise my future, as they were partially responsible for me becoming a paramedic.

“Working in Gloucester completely revolutionised my outlook and way of life. I was admittedly apprehensive of working in a completely new area, with new people, but I was made to feel at home and that my sexuality would never be an issue in the work place. 'Normal' conversations would be had and crewmates would even ask if I had a boyfriend.

“Seeing and hearing other people’s stories, I realise I am fortunate to have had such a positive experience in the workplace. Being a part of the National Ambulance LGBT network and working with colleagues across the county, seeing the positive work that is being completed to support LGBT staff and the achievements that have been made, such as the first National Ambulance LGBT Conference, shows how far we and our predecessors have come.”

SWASFT LGBT Network exists to celebrate difference and diversity within the trust, to share an understanding of the experiences of LGBT staff, and to provide support for them. 

LGBT Foundation is a national charity providing advice, support and information services to LGBT communities. To contact the foundation, call 0345 330 3030 or email

South Western Ambulance Charity logo

South Western Ambulance Charity

The South Western Ambulance Charity, founded in 1995, uses gifted monies to benefit those in our communities who use our service and to improve the welfare of the staff and volunteers of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. 

Our charitable support covers Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire including Bristol and Swindon.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the care that you or your loved one has received from us in the form of a charitable donation please visit our online giving website: Donate to South Western Ambulance Charity | Give as you Live Donate