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May 2021

Ambulance crew speak after ‘distressing’ knife incident

13 May 2021

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) crew have spoken about their experience of being threatened by a patient with a knife.

Paramedic Tom and Emergency Care Assistant Catherine responded to a concern for welfare incident at an address near Ferndown, Dorset in January.

Tom and Catherine attempted to reach the patient who responded by threatening to stab them unless they left her. So they retreated to their ambulance and requested police attendance.

They saw the woman at a window holding a kitchen knife and motioning it towards them. They watched her put the knife in her bag and put her coat on.

Tom and Catherine pressed their panic button for an urgent police response, due to concern for the safety of the patient, the public and themselves. 

The woman came outside with the bag apparently containing the knife, and threatened to stab them again if they came near her. She walked away from them, and then police arrived at the scene. 

Catherine and Tom said: “This was a very distressing incident that left us feeling very vulnerable. We come to work to help people, not to be threatened with a knife. These kinds of incidents have an impact not just on victims, but also on their families and colleagues. Frontline workers should be able to their jobs without fear of attack.”

A woman was convicted at Bournemouth Crown Court on 9 April of assaulting an emergency worker - relating to a police officer - criminal damage, and possession of a knife. She was sentenced to an 18-month community order with an 18-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Two counts of assaulting emergency workers, relating to the ambulance crew, were discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

A CPS spokesperson explained: “Assaults against those who protect the public in emergency situations are unacceptable. A person can be guilty where they intentionally or recklessly cause another person to expect immediate, unlawful violence will be used against them.  

“In this case, the charges were discontinued because we could not prove the defendant intended the ambulance crew to believe imminent unlawful force would be used and therefore the evidential test was not met.

“The CPS takes assaults of emergency workers very seriously, and we will always seek to prosecute perpetrators when the evidential test has been met.”

In a separate case, an Emergency Care Assistant was injured by a patient with a knife after the patient was told he needed to go to hospital.

The male crew member sustained several minor cuts to his head, and went to A&E for an assessment following the incident in Swindon in February.

Gerald Lee, 56, pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm. He was sentenced at Swindon Crown Court on 5 May to 12 months in prison.

Paramedic Mike Jones, who is SWASFT’s Violence Reduction Lead, said: “Our people deal with unacceptable behaviour against them every day while providing emergency care to patients across the South West.

“Any such behaviour can have a serious and lasting impact on the victims, their colleagues and loved ones.

“We take whatever action is necessary to protect our people from harm, and do all we can to ensure those individuals who do abuse and assault our colleagues are prosecuted through the criminal justice system.

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

SWASFT colleagues reported 1,840 incidents of violence and aggression from patients and other members of the public between 1 May 2020 and 30 April 2021.

The figures included 554 verbal abuse incidents, 464 aggressive behaviour incidents, and 328 physical assaults.  

They represent a 34% increase compared to 1,370 incidents reported during the previous 12 months.

The Government announced in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May that it is protecting emergency service workers by doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting people in the emergency services.

Action-packed, interactive online conference for Student Paramedics

13 May 2021


Saturday 22 May, via ZOOM

For the first time, the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) Student Conference is being held entirely online, using an innovative mix of virtual reality, live sessions, video and interactive polling.

The ‘Be a Better Paramedic’ Student Conference on Saturday 22 May provides specialist training alongside the professionals for those studying towards their Paramedic Science degree. The 2021 event follows the tried-and-tested format of previous events, adapting them to the current COVID-19 restrictions.  

SWASFT Chief Executive, Will Warrender, said: “I am delighted we are able to host our ‘Be a Better Paramedic’ conference this year. The conference is a chance for student paramedics across the country to refresh their knowledge, learn and develop understanding of a diverse range of pre-hospital care scenarios, giving student paramedics an amazing experience which builds upon what is taught in the classroom.  The day is designed to be informative, interactive and most of all fun”.The journey from student to registered paramedic can be a challenging one and SWASFT wants to support students to become not just a paramedic, but become a better paramedic. More than 250 student paramedics from across the country have already registered attending the SWASFT Student Conference 2021.

Highlights of the day include:

  • Chance to hear first-hand from SWASFT’s Chief Executive, Will Warrender
  • 'It's OK to not be OK' - but do we really mean that? – keynote address by Pete Reeve, Air Operations Officer for Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) focusing on paramedic wellbeing

Masterclass sessions reflecting current evidence-based thinking and help students make well informed clinical decisions:

  • HAZMAT: Are you ready to respond?– join our paramedic teams and Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) as they deploy to a multi-casualty chemical incident, with interactive learning points
  • Toxidromes– a dynamic “virtual reality” tour of overdoses to test your decision-making
  • Stroke Mimics– how well do you know your “stroke differentials” (things that seem like strokes but could be something else)? Here’s what to look out for
  • Critical Care– watch our team perform a real-time thoracotomy (opening of the chest) on a life-size dummy

SWASFT University Liaison Officer, Jennings Mitchell, said: “This day is all about you. SWASFT take great pride in the quality of our clinical expertise, and today is designed to give you a flavour of this and contribute to your ongoing professional development – I hope you find it useful, fun and educational.”

A few places are still available for the Conference, which is free of charge to student paramedics studying at any university. The deadline to register is Monday 17 May. To register go to: or follow the “Campaign and Event” link from the front page of the website

Key note speaker Pete Reeve

Join a national outpouring of love to raise money for your local NHS people

14 May 2021

South Western Ambulance Charity is encouraging people to join the nation’s biggest tea break this summer and help raise money for the many colleagues and volunteers in our NHS who have done so much for others during the pandemic.

Following a year like no other, the South Western Ambulance Charity hopes as many people as possible will join the national outpouring of love and thanks for the NHS on its birthday by hosting or taking part in an NHS Big Tea on 5 July.

Each event can be in person or virtual, with the community, friends, family or at work, and is a chance to reflect and say thank you for everything that NHS colleagues and volunteers have done and continue to do, by taking part in the nation’s biggest tea break to raise money for the South Western Ambulance Charity.

People can host their own event or they can show their support by taking five minutes to enjoy a tea break, texting £5 to support NHS charities, and tagging five friends on social media and calling on them to do the same.

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

“The NHS Big Tea is the perfect opportunity for all of us to pause and reflect on what has been an incredibly challenging year.  Please join us in raising a cuppa on the day to show our sincere appreciation to all of the NHS heroes that have worked tirelessly to keep us safe during these difficult times.”

Ellie Orton, CEO of NHS Charities Together, which is behind the NHS Big Tea, said:

“Many of us have a lot to be grateful to NHS staff and volunteers for following the year we have had. They have been at the forefront of the response to one of the biggest challenges our country has ever faced. NHS Big Tea is chance to show our support for them by joining a national outpouring of thanks this July. For many, this will be an outpouring of joy, celebrating the vaccine and all that it is allowing us to do again. For others, it will be an outpouring of thanks, for everything that our NHS champions have done for us. For some, sadly, it will be a moment of reflection for the loss of loved ones. Whatever the emotion, please join the nation’s biggest tea break to raise money for the incredible people in our NHS.”

Thanks to the support and generosity of the public over the last year, NHS Charities have been able to be there for NHS staff, to ensure they can continue with their vital lifesaving work, whether through funding counselling and mental health support, or support with practical needs, like food, drink and a place to rest.

The South Western Ambulance Charity has used the funds they have received to date from NHS Charities Together predominantly to support the health & wellbeing of their staff and volunteers.  We are now urging the public to take part in the NHS Big Tea to enable our charity to continue to go the extra mile for our exceptional people, our volunteer heroes and the communities served by the South Western Ambulance Service.

Thousands are expected to host events and NHS Charities Together has produced a pack to help those events go with a swing.  To take part and get your tea break fundraising pack, please visit or email


Ambulance service expects high demand to continue

27 May 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is expecting a recent demand surge to continue – and is asking people to ‘make the right call’.

SWASFT has dealt with almost 300 additional emergency incidents a day since the government eased lockdown restrictions to allow the reopening of outdoor hospitality and retail on 12 April and indoor hospitality on 17 May.

It responded to an average of 2,913 incidents a day last week, compared with 2,816 incidents a day between 12 April and 16 May, and 2,627 incidents a day before any of those changes took effect.

SWASFT is expecting to deal with around 3,000 incidents a day during the upcoming bank holiday weekend and half term week when many visitors are likely to travel to the region.

It is asking people to choose well and only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency to help it reach those most in need.

Lead Paramedic Ed Hill said: “We have attended an increased number of emergency incidents recently, and some of them have involved patients who could have sought alternative help.

“During this bank holiday weekend and school half term week, we are expecting our service to be stretched by another rise in patient numbers.

“To help us to help you and your loved ones, please ensure you make the right call. Think 111 before dialling 999, and save emergency ambulances for those who need us most.

“Also if you decide to make your own way to hospital after calling 999, please remember to call us back to ensure your ambulance is available to someone else.”

People should call 999 for an ambulance in a medical emergency. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. For example: if someone has stopped breathing, is unconscious or has serious bleeding.

People with non-life threatening but urgent medical problems should contact NHS 111. For example, broken or fractured bones, sprains, or burns.

Inappropriate use of the 999 service puts unnecessary additional pressure on limited ambulance resources, and can delay emergency care to those most in need.

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