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June 2019

Ambulance Service Celebrates Lifesaving Volunteers

Thorncombe 1

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is celebrating the fantastic vital work of its selfless volunteers across the region who help people in their time of need.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, SWASFT is shining the spotlight on its thousands of volunteer responders who provide essential support to patients throughout the South West.

The volunteers include hundreds of Community First Responders (CFRs) who attend emergenies and care for patients before paramedics arrive, and often save lives.

Rhys Jones, a CFR based in Poole, said: “Sometimes we can be the first person on the scene of a cardiac arrest. Alternatively we may attend older people who have fallen over and need a helping-hand getting up.

“I love giving something back to my community, and being able to help people.”

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Sharon Dobson, a CFR based in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, said: “One job I attended last year was a lady with chest pain. Shortly after I survived, she had a cardiac arrest. But having a defibrillator on scene meant we could get her heart beating normally again.

“A couple of months later the same lady approached me in town. She thanked me, and said CFRs make a big difference to local communities.”

Rob Horton, SWASFT Responder Manager, said: “We are extremely grateful to all our amazing volunteers who give up their time to be there when the community calls.

“I am so proud to work with these people who make such a difference to us and our patients. Thank you to you all.”

CFRs are trained volunteers who attend emergency incidents on behalf of SWASFT within their local communities. They respond to particular types of 999 calls where it is essential for the patient to receive immediate lifesaving care. These include conditions such as cardiac arrest, chest pain, breathing difficulties, unconscious patients, fitting and stroke. Their aim is to reach the patient in the vital minutes before the ambulance crew arrives.

Some CFRs also attend incidents in which patients have had a non-injury fall, but are unable to get up. These responders assess and move patients from the floor to a sitting or standing position, using a specialist lifting device and with support from clinicians in the 999 Control Hubs.

Thorncombe First Responders, based in West Devon, are the longest-running group after launching in April 1998.

SWASFT has a range of volunteer responders, including:

  • Community First Responders - volunteers who support their local community by attending emergency calls ahead of an ambulance;
  • St John Ambulance Community First Responders - volunteers who under their work with St John Ambulance, respond within their local community ahead of an ambulance;
  • Fire Co-Responders - retained fire fighters who attend emergency calls on behalf of the Trust, as part of their day to day role with the fire and rescue service;
  • RNLI Co-Responders - life guards who patrol beaches and respond to local incidents;
  • Establishment-based Responders - staff who respond to an incident that may occur during their normal working date, for example in a railway station or shopping centre;
  • Staff Responders - ambulance clinicians who volunteer to attend emergencies in their local communities on their day off.

SWASFT covers one of the most rural areas of the UK, and is committed to providing the population of the South West with the highest standard of out-of-hospital care.

If you are interested in becoming a Community First Responder, please visit NHS Jobs to find out more about SWASFT recruitment in your area.

Lorry Crash Mum Reunited With Paramedics and Volunteer Doctors

A visually-impaired mum has been reunited with the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) paramedics and the volunteer doctors who saved her life when she was crushed by a lorry.

Kay Kitto was struck outside her Falmouth home in September 2016 as she was loading her car for a family trip that never happened.

Kay sustained life-changing injuries when the hydraulic arm of the commercial lorry collided with a stationary van that subsequently hit her.

To listen to the traumatic 999 call made by Kay's husband, click here

Kay, now 47, has made a remarkable recovery from the accident, including regaining the use of her legs.

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Kay and husband Nigel made a special visit to Falmouth Ambulance Station on Tuesday 18 June to thank members of the team who treated her.

“I’m so grateful to everyone involved for everything they did,” she said. “I owe them my life. I was determined not to be beaten by the accident, and I’ve pushed myself to get better.”

Mark Griffiths, SWASFT Emergency Care Assistant, said: “Kay has made a phenomenal recovery, which is testament to her grit and determination.

“It’s an absolute privilege to be able to meet with her. She’s an amazing woman.”

The family had been on their way to London for a Guide Dogs for the Blind Association fun day.

Nigel called 999 to report the incident, and staff in the SWASFT Control Centre organised for crews to attend.

A team of responders, including paramedics and BASICS (British Association for Immediate Care Schemes) Cornwall volunteer doctors, treated Kay at the scene before she was taken onto hospital for further care.

Kay had fractures to her lower spine, two broken legs, a perforated bowel and sepsis. She spent more than 13 weeks in hospital, where she was put into a medically-induced coma and had five operations.

Kay said: “I remember telling the paramedics at the scene not to give me anything stronger than painkillers, and that I didn’t want to have any operations because I don’t heal well.”

Kay was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the incident.

Her son, Dexter, now 12, was in the car when the accident happened, but escaped physical injury.

Guide dog Jackie was thrown out of the car, but was also uninjured. She had to be retired in September 2018 after four-and-a-half years of service, because of stress caused by the accident.

A SWASFT spokesman said: “Kay and her family have shown remarkable courage and fortitude to persevere come through an incredibly challenging time.

“We are delighted they have been able to meet-up with some of paramedics and volunteer doctors who attended the incident almost three years.

“We wish them all the best with their ongoing recovery.”

Three men were sentenced at Truro Crown Court in April 2018 in relation to the incident.

If you are involved in or witness an accident in which people may be injured, call 999 for an ambulance and report the incident to the police. Attempt to reach any casualties without putting yourself in danger. 


1. The main group image shows (left to right): SWASFT Paramedic Justin Thomas; Dr Ryan Jackson; Kay and Nigel Kitto; Dr Ryan Jackson; and SWASFT Emergency Care Assistant Mark Griffiths.

 2. PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTST often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. Some people with PTSD may find it difficult to control and process their emotions. They may display symptoms including shortness of breath, tight muscles, excessive sweating and raised heart rate. They may feel constantly on edge, always anxious about events repeating, and unable to remain calm in what should be manageable circumstances. More information on PTSD can be found here from Mind, the mental health charity.

3. BASICS (British Association for Immediate Care Schemes) Cornwall is a charity that supports SWASFT with the provision of specially trained doctors and vital medical equipment. The doctors all respond on a voluntary basis, in their own vehicles, and in their own time. BASICS Cornwall doctors aim to provide a fast response to incidents in rural areas, and use their extensive skills to support patient care. For more information, visit:

Ambulance Staff Honoured By Police

A trio of South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) paramedics have been honoured for saving a woman’s life.

Student Paramedic Gemma Southcott, Paramedic Tasha Watson and Newly Qualified Paramedic Krystal King were praised for their response to a report of a suicidal female. 

They arrived to find the patient sat on an outside window sill of a second floor flat, with her partner holding onto her.

Tasha and Krystal stayed at ground level to talk to the female and prepare medical equipment in case she fell.

Gemma entered the property, and with the help of two members of the public managed to pull the woman back into the flat.

Gemma, Tasha and Krystal were each given a certificate by Superintendent Jez Capey at the Awards & Recognition Ceremony held on 13 June at Livermead Cliff Hotel in Torquay, South Devon.

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The trio were recognised for their “quick and decisive actions” which “undoubtedly saved the life of this female”.

Krystal said: “We truly do appreciate being recognised by our police colleagues. What makes this award so worthwhile is that the patient was safely removed from the roof and conveyed onto hospital for further treatment.”

Kevin McSherry, SWASFT County Commander South & West Devon, said: “I’m delighted Gemma, Tasha and Krystal has been formally commended by Devon and Cornwall Police for their remarkable bravery and selflessness. Our crews frequently go above and beyond the call of duty to help people and save lives. Gemma, Tasha and Krystal are proof of the extra effort they make for people in need.”


  1. The larger photo shows (left to right): SWASFT Newly Qualified Paramedic Krystal King, Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Superintendent Keith Perkin, Paramedic Tasha Watson, and Student Paramedic Gemma Southcott.
  2. Awards were also presented to other emergency services representatives and members of the public were recognised for their positive contributions to society.

For mental health information and support, please contact:

  1. Samaritans on 116 123 or email
  2. Mind, the Mental Health Charity on 0300 123 3393, text 86463, or email
  3. Papyrus on 0800 068 4141, or text 0778 620 9697 or email
  4. YoungMinds Parents' Helpline 0808 802 5544
  5. If your life or someone else’s life is in danger, call 999 for an ambulance.

Like father, like son - green dream comes true

Archive image

Mike and Dan Gray recreated

A dedicated father and son duo working for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) in Somerset have recreated a photo that shows dreams really do come true.

Dan Gray was only a toddler when a photo was taken of him pretending to drive an ambulance wearing a nappy and a hard hat together with his proud dad looking on. Now his dream has become reality. Not only has Dan followed in his father’s footsteps, working first as firefighter and then joining the ambulance service. But Dan has also had a chance to work directly alongside his father Mike Gray, who is a Specialist Paramedic.

The pair, who have devoted their lives to helping other people in the community, have recreated the photo with an up-to-date Dan (now aged 30) in his green ambulance uniform driving the ambulance and once again with a proud dad looking on.

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Student Paramedic Dan Gray, who started as an Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) in 2015, said: “Who’d have thought I’d not only be able to follow in my father’s footsteps but also get a chance to work directly alongside him? He really is my role model and it is a privilege when we get to work on the odd shift together.

“We were amazed at the reaction to a photo we posted on social media recreating us together 30 years later. That original photo sat in my grandad’s wallet for many years, so it is a little worn out but you can still see what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

Mike Gray’s tweet received 1K+ likes on Twitter:

Dan joined Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service in 2008 as a retained firefighter and met up with his father on the occasional emergency incident, but Dan felt he wanted to help patients even more and applied to work for the ambulance service.

Specialist Paramedic Mike Gray has inspired many to go into emergency medicine. Over the years Mike has visited various schools and inspired the next generation with stories of treating patients for the ambulance service since 1990. Mike says it is all about teamwork; “It’s one big green family, and we all support each other. I’m so proud of Dan he always used to come along to the station and was very interested in it all from an early age. It is one of the most rewarding jobs being able to help treat patients in an emergency: to stabilize them and do your best for them when traumatic things have happened. I’ve tried to pass on that onto Dan, we may not have been there at the moment the incident happened but we can try and do our best to put things right again.”

Dan said it is a great job “It can be challenging, but very rewarding. The work is very varied not knowing where, what or who you'll get to see or treat in a shift. The best thing is the comradeship, it is right across the emergency services in general and we support each other. I’d recommend the profession to anyone”.

If you are interested in finding out about career opportunities with SWAST visit and click on Recruitment.

New Mobile App Helps Ambulance Service Save Lives

Lives could be saved this summer thanks to a new system being used by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT).

SWASFT has recently adopted the three-word global address system called what3words in its control room to locate patients within a three-square metre area.

999 callers can use the free app to find the three-word address for their location, and share it with the call handler. 

The control room can use the address to identify the precise location, and send help exactly where it is needed.

SWASFT is encouraging people to download the app, but only to use it in a genuine emergency. 

It is hoped the app will be used positively to help locate patients at this week’s Glastonbury Festival where crews expect to attend around 200 emergency incidents.

David Fletcher, Head of SWASFT Clinical Hubs, said: “We cover an incredibly complex and varied area, including rural and urban regions, but sometimes there are no postcodes or clear directions to help us to pinpoint the location of patients in need of our care.

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“While we will continue to use our existing mapping systems, we are now also using the new technology to locate incidents.

“This new mapping system will allow people to tell us easily and simply exactly where they are. So no matter whether they are in the middle of Dartmoor, at a festival, or in the middle of a university campus, their location will have a unique three-word description which will help us to find them.

“If you download the app, it will mean we can find you more easily in an emergency when every second counts. It really could be the difference between life and death.”

Identifying precisely where help is needed in an emergency is critical. But it can be hard for callers to communicate where they are.

what3words divides the world into 57 trillion nine-square-metre (97-sq-ft) areas, and gives each a unique three-word address. For example, the entrance to Exeter Cathedral can be found at ‘‘///cloth.kings.title’.

The system is intended to give callers a simple way to say exactly where help is needed, and allow resources to be sent straight to the scene.

Avon and Somerset Police, who have been using the technology for around a year, said it has benefited its response to emergencies.

Sam Sheppard, Command and Control Systems Manager, said: “Having this type of technology integrated within our Command and Control system has changed the way we are able to deal with incidents where the location isn’t known.

“The Control Room staff that have used what3words for an emergency call have said how easy it is, and they were able to find the location a lot quicker than they previously would have.”

If the user has the app on their phone, they don’t even need a data signal to obtain their location, because the app can use GPS signal to identify their current location and provide their 3 word address.

The free-to-use system is available as an app and through the company’s website.

Chris Sheldrick, CEO and Founder of what3words said: “‘Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services. Today people nearly always have their phone on them. We need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services and potentially save lives. Just as you may have your In Case of Emergency contacts set up on your phone, we encourage everyone to download the app to make sure they are ready to quickly share accurate location information, should the worst happen. It’s free, it’s simple to use, and one day it might make sure you get the help you need, when you need it most.”

People are reminded only to call 999 when someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life may be at risk.


  1. What3Words is a global address system made up of 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, each identified by a unique three-word address. People can refer to any precise location – a delivery entrance, a picnic spot, or a drone landing point – using three simple words. For example: table, lamp, spoon.
  2. To learn more about the app, watch this promotional video:
  3. SWASFT provides emergency and urgent care across an area of 10,000 square miles, which is 20% of mainland England and is predominately rural.

Mum Thanks Ambulance Crew After Traumatic Birth

A mum has been reunited with the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) paramedic duo who delivered her baby in an emergency home birth.

Amy Cotterell, 25, went into labour at her flat in the Patchway area of Bristol, 36 weeks and four days into her pregnancy.

Her partner Aaron called 999 when Amy’s waters broke and she began having strong and frequent contractions.

To listen to the 999 call, click here

Lead Paramedic Ralph Whitby enabled baby Odin to be born safely in a breech position (bottom first) at 2.52am on 30 December 2017, weighing 7lb and 5oz.

Ralph was assisted by Paramedic Stuart Dando and Emergency Care Assistant Agatha Child.

Odin was in a critical condition, but survived and was well enough to go home after less than two weeks in hospital.

Amy, Aaron, their daughter Gracie, and Odin made a special visit to Bristol Ambulance Station on Friday 28 June to meet Ralph and Agatha.

The family expressed special thanks to Ralph for his role in saving Odin’s life.

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Amy said: “If it wasn’t for Ralph our son wouldn’t be here today. No words will ever be enough to express our thanks. Ralph is our hero.”

They also praised the other ambulance crew for arriving so quickly, and for all they did to help with the complex delivery.

Babies are usually born head-first, and a breech presentation can be risky for mother and baby.

Amy said: “Breech births usually take place in hospital as a c-section (caesarean delivery). But Odin had other ideas.

“It wasn’t a planned home birth, and I thought he had been born normally until Ralph said he was breech.”

Amy had felt pain in her abdominal area just before Christmas 2017, and thought “something wasn’t right”. But her due date wasn’t until 23 January 2018.

On the night of the birth, Amy knew she was “ready to push” which prompted Aaron to call 999 to get help.

Staff in the SWASFT 999 Control Centre instructed Aaron how to prepare for the birth, while crews were sent to attend.

When Odin was born, he was very unwell, and needed urgent medical care.

Amy said: “Odin wasn’t breathing properly or crying, and he had blue skin. So it was a bit of a panic. But Ralph saved him.”

Ralph said: “Two weeks beforehand I did the PROMPT (Practical Obstetric Multi-Professional Training) maternity course, which meant the delivery went more smoothly than it could have done.”

Amy and Odin were rushed to Southmead Hospital, where he was kept in intensive care for 12 days, before being allowed home with his mum.

Amy was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing flashbacks to the birth.

She added: “I’ve been nervous but excited about meeting the paramedics, because of how the birth affected me.

“Thankfully Odin has settled down, and is doing really well now.”


1. Most babies are born in the head-first position. However, if that doesn’t happen, the baby may be born bottom or feet-first (breech position) or lying sideways (transverse position).

    2. PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTST often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. Some people with PTSD may find it difficult to control and process their emotions. They may display symptoms including shortness of breath, tight muscles, excessive sweating and raised heart rate. They may feel constantly on edge, always anxious about events repeating, and unable to remain calm in what should be manageable circumstances. More information on PTSD can be found here from Mind, the mental health charity.

    Paramedic Dad Awarded 'Best Student' Prize

    A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) Paramedic has been formally recognised after combining ambulance shifts with classroom studies.

    Paramedic, Tom Staple, won the SWASFT Graduate Paramedic Award for the ‘Best Overall Student’ on the Paramedic Science course at the University of West of England, Bristol.

    Tom, 41, from Bridport in Dorset, collected the prize at his graduation ceremony on Tuesday 16 July after doing the Higher Education Diploma alongside SWASFT work to show his five children that “anything is possible”.

    After working in the care sector for 12 years, Tom has worked for the ambulance service as an Emergency Care Assistant since 2008. He recently completed the three-year course to become a Newly Qualified Paramedic.

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    Tom said: “I’ve dreamed of being a fully-fledged paramedic since I was a teenager after being inspired by my grandparents who spent their lives looking after other people. Having worked on the road for 11 years, I applied for the course even though I hadn’t done any formal education for a long time. I wanted to be able to do more for my patients, and prove to my children that anything is possible.

    “It’s been hard to balance my studies with work, but I’ve had fantastic support from my partner, family and friends. Essays are not my friend, but I gave each one 100% and somehow managed to complete the course. You could say I have been persistent.

    “I was completely surprised to win the award. But I put so much into my course, wasn’t afraid to ask for help, and was always happy to help others. I am honoured to have been chosen from the cohort. Now I’m aiming to be the best paramedic I can be.”

    Bridport Paramedic, Janet Ogden added: “Tom who is the most conscientious student you will ever meet. He genuinely believes in his role and has an incredible understanding of his patients and their feelings and fears. He has always shown a thirst for knowledge and by believing in himself, has the capability to go far.”

    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