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Welcome to SWASFT

March 2021

The Prince of Wales sends video message to ambulance workers

03 March 2021

The Prince of Wales has recorded a video message to thank UK ambulance workers for their “tireless and selfless” service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the message, His Royal Highness pays tribute to the “sheer professionalism and commitment to duty” shown by ambulance colleagues over the past year.

He says: “Every working day, you are, of course, used to dealing with life-threatening emergencies, and doing so with a dedication to the welfare of others that is in the finest traditions of our National Health Service.

“However, during this most dreadful pandemic, you have surpassed yourselves in facing a previously unimaginable level of demand, day after day, week after week, month after month. The toll on your reserves of inner strength and endurance must, in consequence, often be almost unbearable.”

The Prince says it is “truly inspiring” to hear of the willingness of ambulance colleagues to “go the extra mile - quite literally - in every emergency in order to save lives, to relieve pain and suffering” and provide “the human comfort that is so vital at such a time”.

He speaks of the “personal risks”, “endless challenges” and “huge pressures” faced by ambulance colleagues and their families, and praises the “incalculable difference” ambulance care makes to people’s lives.

His Royal Highness says: “You exemplify everything that is best about this country, so please remember that we owe you an immeasurable debt of gratitude for all you mean to us in these hardest of times.”

As well as frontline crews, The Prince acknowledges those colleagues whose work is “less visible” but “no less vital” including emergency call handlers, support staff and the “army of volunteers”.

He adds: “I can only offer what must seem like hopelessly inadequate, but nevertheless most heartfelt thanks, admiration and respect on behalf of the countless communities you serve in such a tremendously inspiring way up and down the length of this country.”

The Prince of Wales is also The Duke of Cornwall and his family home is in Gloucestershire.

Will Warrender, SWASFT Chief Executive, said: “We are honoured that The Prince of Wales has personally recognised the extraordinary team effort of our people and our colleagues. In the midst of intense and unrelenting pressure, I could not be prouder of the commitment, perseverance and resilience of our people at South Western Ambulance Service to enable us to continue to deliver excellent patient care across the region.”

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall met representatives from SWASFT and other emergency services in Exeter in July 2020.

‘Let's grieve together with yellow hearts’

9 March 2021

A Student Paramedic with South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is encouraging people to grieve together with yellow hearts for those who have been lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hannah Gompertz, from Castle Cary and currently based in Derriford, lost her grandmother Sheila to the virus in April 2020.

Her grandfather David, now 84, felt isolated in his grief, and wanted to reach out to others in a similar situation.

He remembered hearing stories of families tying yellow ribbons around trees and door handles in remembrance of the men who had left for war.

David and Hannah conceived the idea of bereaved households placing a yellow heart in a window to show they were being affected by the loss of a loved one.

Hannah created a Facebook group called 'Yellow Hearts to Remember - COVID-19' where people could post photos of their yellow hearts and share their stories of bereavement.

Now the group has more than 7,000 members, and has been described as a “lifeline” for those grieving.

Hannah said: “Our grandad wanted to show that the country is covered with families who have lost somebody and been touched by this pandemic.

“He recognised that although we are told every day the number of people who have died with Covid-19, these are just statistics. We thought that if every family who had lost someone put a yellow symbol in their window or on their door, people would realise the extent of this personal and national tragedy.  

“Our grandad said: ‘We hope that if you are mourning you find comfort in solidarity, and if you aren’t pass it on so you may reach a family who are grieving.’”

David was made a Point of Light by the Prime Minister in December 2020, recognising him as an outstanding volunteer, making change in his community.

In a personal letter to David, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Your campaign has now captured the hearts of people across the country and shown that while we cannot all meet in person together, we can still spread kindness and share in remembering those we have lost.”

The yellow heart has become commonplace in people’s homes, in shopping centres, on prominent buildings and landmarks, and on social media.

Now Hannah is hoping more people will support the campaign by joining the Facebook group and promoting the yellow heart symbol.

She wears a yellow heart badge on her work uniform, and has invited SWASFT colleagues and those in other emergency services to do the same.

She said: “The yellow heart has become a national symbol of remembrance for those who have been lost too soon during the Covid-19 pandemic, and a symbol of support for their loved ones.

“We’d love to bring more people together who are grieving through yellow hearts.”

NHS Staff Survey 2020 results

The 2020 NHS Staff Survey results have now been released. The final confirmed response rate at SWASFT was 73%, an increase of 23% from 2019 and the highest of all ambulance Trusts in England.  It is fantastic that so many colleagues took the time to have their say and to help shape the future of the Trust.

We’re pleased to share there has been an improvement in all areas compared to last year’s NHS staff survey, with the exception of one. It’s welcome news to see colleagues reporting these improvements, particularly through what has been a challenging year for us all. The results showed a slight decrease [from a score of 8.9 (out of 10) in 2019 to 8.8 in 2020] in physical violence at work from patients, the general public or colleagues.  This behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated and the Trust continues to move forward with our violence and aggression programme.

When benchmarking ourselves against other Ambulance Trusts, we scored better than average or average across 8 out of the 10 themes*, showing some encouraging green shoots of change.

Staff engagement increased across the board, including:

  • 60.4% said they, often or always, look forward to going to work (up 4.2%)
  • 72.2% said they are, often or always, enthusiastic about their job (up 2.2%)
  • 4.8% increase in those who agreed or strongly agreed that the care of patients is the organisation’s top priority at 67.6%
  • An encouraging 11.4% increase in the number of staff who agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend SWASFT as a place to work at 57.8%
  • Staff reported a decrease in ‘personally experiencing bullying and harassment’ by patients, the public and managers. Whilst this is very encouraging, we recognise there is more progress to be made as part of our cultural development.
  • 86.7% of respondents agreed of strongly agreed they feel their role makes a difference to patients
  • 82.5% agreed or strongly agreed that they are satisfied with the quality of care they have to patients
  • There was an increase across the board in staff feeling supported and valued by their immediate managers and the overall quality of care. However, there remains work to be done to improve how we compare with the national average in these two areas.

Will Warrender, SWASFT Chief Executive, said: “I am absolutely delighted to see so many colleagues reporting an improvement in the majority of areas across our Trust, but am also in no doubt that there is still much more to do and I remain committed to ‘’creating tomorrow together’ here at SWASFT. To do this properly will take time.  

“Nevertheless, the excellent return rate will provide us with valuable insight.  Over the coming weeks there will be a more in–depth evaluation of the feedback but for now, supported by colleagues across the Trust, we have a comprehensive action plan that continues to drive improvement going forward.

“It was disappointing to see that more colleagues have experienced verbal or physical violence. It is totally unacceptable that any of us should be subjected to any sort of violence at work and we are already taking steps to address this. I want to reiterate we are determined to clamp down on violence and aggression together.”

*The ten themes in the NHS staff survey are equality, diversity and inclusion; health and wellbeing; immediate managers; morale; quality of care; safe environment – bullying and harassment; safe environment – violence; safety culture; staff engagement and team working.

The Duke of Cambridge speaks to South Western Ambulance Service

12 March 2021

The Duke of Cambridge has spoken to South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) to hear about how South Western Ambulance Charity funding is making a difference throughout the region.

His Royal Highness called SWASFT Responder Manager, Robert Horton, who explained how grant funding from NHS Charities Together is enabling SWASFT to go the extra mile for its Community First Responder (CRF) volunteers across the South West.

The Duke also spoke with colleagues from seven other NHS trusts on Tuesday 9 March in his role as Patron of NHS Charities Together.

Robert said: “It was an absolute honour to showcase the amazing team of CFR volunteers, and the way South Western Ambulance Charity and NHS Charities Together support our initiatives.”

CFRs are volunteers operating on behalf of SWASFT within the predominantly remote and rural communities in which they live or work. They are dispatched to 999 emergency incidents where every second counts, and administer basic life support until an ambulance crew arrive. These include incidents when someone isn’t breathing, has chest pain, or is unconscious or fitting.

Robert added: “Attending around 40,000 incidents each year, our CFRs really do save lives, reduce pain, prevent or reduce hospital stays, and provide reassurance to those requiring emergency care.”

CFRs have also recently helped to support SWASFT colleagues at hospital emergency departments across the South West by giving them hot drinks and other light refreshments.

Notes to editors:

  1. NHS Charities Together is the national membership organisation for NHS Charities representing, championing and supporting the work of more than 140 member charities, including South Western Ambulance Charity.
  2. Captain Sir Tom Moore directly raised £33 million for NHS Charities Together’s Covid-19 appeal.

Trust announces new Transformation Director

18 March 2021

As part of our work to evolve the Trust’s strategic vision and direction I am delighted to announce the appointment of Tina Cantelo as our Transformation Director. This is a new, pivotal role in which Tina will support with the development and delivery of a new 10 year strategy. Tina will be working in partnership with the Trust Board, Directors and key internal and external stakeholders to ensure the Trust’s strategic initiatives and all other SWASFT change programmes, are aligned with our strategic objectives and are rolled out in a planned and coordinated way.

The Trust strategy will help us shape and deliver our services to ensure we have the right resources in the right place, and at the right time. Part of this work is looking at the population needs of our local communities across the South West to understand what resources we need to continue delivering life-saving, expert care both now and for the future.

For the last 14 years, Tina has run her own strategic transformation consultancy service, partnering with both private and public organisations globally and nationally across a range of industries to successfully deliver large scale transformation and change. Prior to consulting, Tina had a long career in the retail commercial sector, culminating in senior leadership roles in The Body Shop International Plc, where she designed and led people change as part of the L’Oreal acquisition.

Tina is passionate about making a positive difference and helping people through change, both personally and professionally, and this new appointment is an incredibly exciting opportunity for the future of the Trust. 


Will Warrender

Chief Executive

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

South Western Ambulance Charity receives £560k funding

26 March 2021

NHS Charities Together has allocated over £560,000 to South Western Ambulance Charity to bolster an army of community first responder volunteers and facilitate additional community projects across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire and the former Avon area (Bristol, Bath, North and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire).  The funding will help to ease the pressure on the service at one of the most challenging times in its history.

The grant is part of £7m which has been allocated by population across all the ambulance charities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In the South West, this charity funding will be used to enhance the role of community first responders, who are trained volunteers dispatched to emergency incidents when every second counts - for example if someone isn’t breathing, has chest pains, is unconscious or fitting - to administer basic life support until an ambulance service arrives.

The funding comes as ambulance services across the country have been dealing with the additional challenges of the Covid crisis. Thanks to support from the public, NHS Charities Together funding in the South West will provide:

  • Observation equipment for community first responder volunteers to provide enhanced assessment and patient care;
  • Lifting chairs to community first responders so they can give early assistance to patients who have experienced a non-injury fall, reducing potential complications associated with being on the floor for an extended period of time;
  • Dedicated community first responder group cars to enable wider geographical reach and a swifter response to emergencies;
  • Awareness and training sessions to increase early intervention for ‘out of hospital’ cardiac arrests as part of our 'Saving Lives Together' campaign, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation training for schools and community groups in hard-to-reach areas;
  • Funding for not-for-profit service GoodSAM, which automatically triggers alerts to any nearby cardiac arrests so volunteers can attend and provide immediate life support while the ambulance is en route, and also identifies the location of the nearest defibrillator;
  • Improved services to meet the needs of those patients suffering mental health issues, including training packages for front line ambulance clinicians to better equip them for complex and challenging calls.

Ellie Orton, Chief Executive for NHS Charities Together, said:

“At this time of immense challenge for the NHS we are delighted that we can make a real difference and ultimately help save lives by funding amazing community first responder volunteers and additional support for South Western Ambulance Service.

“It’s thanks to the overwhelming support of the British public at this difficult time that we are able to fund these vital projects – the NHS has been doing an amazing job but as an independent charity we can provide additional support to help the NHS do more than it otherwise could. A heartfelt thank you to all of our supporters for helping us to care for the NHS.”

Zoe Larter, Head of Charity for South Western Ambulance Charity, said:

“Thanks to support from the public and NHS Charities Together, we are able to go the extra mile for our exceptional staff, volunteer heroes and communities, delivering tangible benefit across the South West of England. The projects funded allow us to focus on early intervention and prevention meaning we will save many more lives as a result.”

Funding has been made available to NHS charities based with 13 ambulance trusts covering the entire UK. Five projects are ready to begin, based with the London Ambulance Service, North West Ambulance Service, South Central Ambulance Service, South Western Ambulance Service, and Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Robert Horton, Programme Responder Manager at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“When the team is responding to an emergency every second counts and our Community First Responders can make the difference between life and death. Having dedicated cars for volunteers which carries additional lifesaving equipment, made possible by the funding from NHS Charities Together, will make all the difference in volunteer availability, the access to volunteering and promotion of the amazing work our volunteers do. Our Community First Responders respond quickly within their community to help people in their time of need ahead of an ambulance.” 

Lyn Strahan, Community First Responder for South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust, said: 
“My husband and I have been Community First Responders for nearly four years. We are part of a great team of local CFRs and together, we are able to respond to a variety of incidents in the local area, with the help of essential equipment. The funding announced from NHS Charities Together will not only provide more CFRs with more lifesaving equipment but in turn it will help to reduce the strain on the ambulance service, it really is wonderful news!”

NHS Charities Together is an independent national charity caring for the NHS. It helps provide additional support to patients, NHS staff and volunteers, working through its 241 member charities based with hospitals, ambulance trusts, community health trusts, mental health trusts and health boards across the UK.

In total NHS Charities Together’s Covid-19 Appeal raised £150 million thanks to the support from Captain Sir Tom and others. Over £118 million has already been made available to our 241 member charities to help patients, staff and volunteers on the ground.


Additional quotes and case studies

CPR and AED training

A cardiac arrest is a time critical medical emergency where the heart stops beating effectively and abruptly. When this happens, blood stops pumping round the body and the brain is starved of oxygen which causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing.

Across the UK, current cardiac arrest survival rates are around an average of 9%, compared to more than 20% in other countries around the world. 

Our 'Saving Lives Together' campaign, launched in 2018, aims to increase early public intervention for ‘out of hospital’ cardiac arrests. 

A spokesperson from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust [SWASFT], said: "We know that CPR saves lives and the more people that learn CPR, the more lives we can save together. 

“Fewer than one in 10 people survive an out of hospital cardiac arrest.  But we know that calling 999, performing hands-only CPR, and using a defibrillator can make a significant difference to someone’s chance of survival. 

“The funding from NHS Charities Together will allow us to educate and train more people across the South West in schools and the community as a whole.”

Mental Health provision

James Wenman, Head of Quality at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust [SWASFT], said:  “As an ambulance service, providing emergency care daily to patients, we know how significant appropriate mental health support to people in crisis can be.  

“The right interventions can lead to reductions in suicide and patient distress and can also, in some circumstances, result in an ambulance no longer being required for that patient, which frees the ambulance and crew up to attend others in need.

“This funding will enable us to appoint a strategic lead in mental health on a two year fixed term basis to lead the development of service improvements for patients with mental health illnesses across our region. They will work with providers, commissioners, patients and the public to develop innovative and collaborative solutions to more appropriately treat patients having a mental health crisis. They will also develop training packages for front line ambulance clinicians to better equip them in dealing with the complex needs of patients.”

Lynn and Phil Strahan (husband and wife, Community First Responders). 

Lynn and Phil live and work in Croyde, a village in North Devon which is popular with tourists and can be difficult to access, particularly during the busy summer months.  They have received CFR training and work with SWASFT to deliver defibrillator training to the local community – they have also helped to secure a defibrillator for the village.  They have had to use their CPR/defibrillator training on many occasions including an incident where a lady came off her horse into the water at Saunton Sands – thankfully she survived.

Lynn and Phil are lucky enough to have the additional kit that will be provided to others through the NHS Charities Together funding but can provide an insight into how much it has helped them to fulfil their life saving role.

Cathy Angell – cardiac arrest survivor

Cathy lives near Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire and at the age of 35 she survived a cardiac arrest.

Cathy stopped breathing while her son was having a riding lesson in April 2018. People around her including a bystander and the owner of the stables, called 999 and began CPR and responders used a defibrillator to keep her alive. She needed emergency heart surgery in hospital, and now lives with an internal defibrillator to regulate her heart rate.

She credits the bystanders’ actions for giving her a “second shot at life” and is an advocate for CPR community

Assaults against ambulance colleagues rise during pandemic

31 March 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) workers are continuing to experience an escalating number of assaults and abuse by patients.

SWASFT colleagues reported 1,747 incidents of violence and aggression from patients and other members of the public during the 12 months after the UK first went into lockdown last year.

The figures, from 24 March 2020 to 23 March 2021, include 515 verbal abuse incidents, 447 aggressive behaviour incidents, and 322 physical assaults.  

They represent a 33% increase in reported incidents from the previous 12 months.

Newly Qualified Paramedics Dan Williams and Kyiah Ellis were among those assaulted on duty by a patient.

They responded to a potentially serious incident, involving a man who was reportedly unconscious on a bus, in the Weston area of Bath on 12 February.

The man, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, became physically and verbally aggressive soon after they arrived around 6.50pm.

He exited the bus, headbutted its wing mirror and windscreen, and punched a parked car.

Dan and Kyiah called for police assistance and retreated onto the bus for their safety.

The man re-entered the bus and spat in Dan’s eye, while continuing to shout at him and Kyiah. He was arrested by police, taken into custody and charged.

The man was convicted at Bath Magistrates’ Court on 15 February of three charges of assaulting emergency services workers, and one charge of criminal damage. He was sentenced to 32 week in prison and ordered to pay a total of £300 compensation to the victims. 

Dan and Kyiah said: "We welcome the prosecution, and thank the police and SWASFT for their support throughout this. We are disappointed that simply doing our job, and ultimately likely saving the life of the patient, resulted in us being assaulted and fearing for our own safety. Assaults against our ambulance colleagues are never acceptable, and leave a lasting effect on those there simply to help.”

Another 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: “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.”

Paramedic Mike Jones, who is SWASFT’s Violence Reduction Lead, said: “Sadly our people are victim every day to unacceptable behaviour from a minority of patients and other members of the public, while they are serving the communities of the South West and saving lives. Any such incident can have a lasting impact on them, their loved ones, and other colleagues.

“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.

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