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September 2020

Paramedic Tracy Shares Video Message After Spitting Assault

8 September 2020

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) paramedic has shared a powerful video message after being assaulted by a patient.

Tracy Higginbottom was spat on while she was taking the young woman to hospital in an ambulance during a night shift in North Cornwall.

She is one of more than 100 SWASFT staff members who have been physically assaulted while on duty by members of the public since lockdown was imposed.

Tracy, who has been a paramedic for more than 20 years, said the “nightmare” experience left her feeling “contaminated, broken and defeated”. She took a month off work to recover.

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She recorded a video soon after the incident in July in which she described the episode and the impact it was having on her.

Tracy said: “Violence and aggression appear to be escalating, and is something we have to deal with as a part of our job. But I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.

“The patient had taken drugs and consumed alcohol in the community. She was out of control and vulnerable. We have a duty of care, and I was genuinely concerned for her welfare. So I decided she needed to go to hospital, even though it was an hour and a quarter away.

“It really kicked-off in the ambulance. She was swearing, kicking and spitting everywhere. It took two of us to hold the patient down to prevent her coming to harm and to prevent her damaging the ambulance.

“Afterwards I felt very distressed and traumatised. So I took some time out, because you need to be in the right frame of mind in my role.

“Now I’m back at work with support. I was so determined not to allow this horrible experience stop me doing the job I love and from being a part of my wonderful green family.”

Tracy decided not to press charges against the person responsible for the assault.

Jenny Winslade, SWASFT Executive Director of Quality and Clinical Care, said: “We praise Tracy for her bravery and courage in speaking out about this dreadful experience. 

“Nobody should have to face that kind of unacceptable behaviour, especially not a healthcare professional caring for a patient.

“Sadly our people face violence and aggression every day while they are trying to protect and save our patients’ lives, which can have serious consequences on them, their families and colleagues.

“They put themselves at risk for the sake of others, and we support whatever action is necessary to protect them from harm. Please respect our people, and help them to help you.”

Ambulance staff reported 106 physical assaults by patients and other members of the public between 23 March and 23 August. This figure compared with 77 during the same time period in 2019.

They also reported 212 incidents of verbal abuse during the five months, compared with 183 last year. More than one in four (56) of the verbal incidents were by callers to 999 Control Room staff.

The reported incidents included a separate spitting assault against a staff member in Bristol, which prompted a public appeal by SWASFT and Avon and Somerset Police.  

Additionally Emergency Care Assistant Mark Walker and a police officer were spat at by a patient Mark was trying to treat in Dawlish, South Devon.  

The offender was sentenced to 22 weeks in prison for assaulting two emergency workers and being drunk and disorderly in a public place.

A man was also jailed for 20 weeks after coughing in a paramedic’s face.

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

It reminds people that assaults of this nature are unacceptable, and are a crime under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018.

SWASFT is encouraging people to share social media posts in support of the campaign to spread the message as far as possible.

Ambulance Service Responds To 999 Call Spike

18 September 2020

The Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is urging people only to call 999 in a serious emergency – as it deals with a surge in demand.

The Trust has experienced a significant increase in activity in recent weeks, with its people managing 20,154 incidents during the past seven days (11 to 17 September).

It dealt with more than 2,900 incidents a day on Saturday and Sunday, which was as busy as a typical New Year’s Eve. 

Activity increased to a peak of 3,030 incidents on Monday, and is expected to remain very high this weekend.

Will Warrender, SWASFT CEO, is asking the public only to call 999 in a medical emergency when someone is seriously injured or ill, or their life is at risk.

He advises people to contact NHS 111 by phone or online if they have a less-serious, but urgent medical problem and aren’t sure what to do.

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Will Warrender said: “Our people are working incredibly hard to keep you all safe, as we deal with incredibly high activity levels across the region. 

“We have been responding to more than 200 additional incidents a day, which is putting substantial pressure on our resources.

“We are reviewing our resources to ensure we can continue responding to patients safely and effectively.

“We will always be there for the patients who need us, but we must ensure we can speak to and treat those with the most life-threatening injuries and illnesses first.

“Please help us to help you by only calling 999 in a genuine, life threatening emergency to ensure we can continue delivering care for those who need us.”

You should always call 999 if someone has stopped breathing, has severe chest pain, is choking, may be having a stroke, has serious blood loss, or is unconscious.

The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

If you have any of these symptoms, try to get a test as soon as possible and stay at home until you get the result.

Video Update for SWASFT Members

22 September 2020

We have produced a video to update our members and the public on some of the challenges and achievements within the Trust.

The film features messages from our Chief Executive Will Warrender, our Board of Directors, and our Council of Governors.

Please see the video below.

It follows our decision to delay our Annual Members Meeting, which was due to be held on Thursday 17 September, because of existing NHS and Government guidelines recommending that face-to-face meetings should be avoided.

The meeting has always been a very important event for the Trust, and we want to ensure it is given the time and platform it deserves.

We will let all members know as soon as possible when and how we will run the meeting.

Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of all our members, patients and our people so thank you for your understanding and continued support of the Trust during these challenging times.

Members can be informed of key updates within the Trust, be involved in surveys and consultations, and consider standing for election as a governor.   

For more information about Trust membership, click here.

To contact the membership team, email ft@swast.nhs.uk

Specialist Paramedic David featured in royal photo exhibition

22 September 2020

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) Specialist Paramedic has been featured in a royal photo exhibition capturing the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) Paramedic David Thorpe made the final 100 of the Hold Still project led by the Duchess of Cambridge with the National Portrait Gallery.

Members of the public were invited to submit images taken during the national lockdown and inspired by three themes - Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness.

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David’s portrait, taken by Gloucestershire photographer Steve Jenkins, was one of more than 31,000 entries for the online project.

David, who is a former soldier, said: “I’m thrilled, delighted and extremely proud that my portrait has been chosen as one of the 100 images for the Hold Still exhibition.

“It’s been such a humbling experience. Steve contacted me in June, saying he would like to use me as a subject for a virtual photographic display for the National Portrait Gallery, depicting life during the lockdown period of the pandemic.

“Since the launch I’ve received many compliments from family, friends, work colleagues, army buddies, and people I don't even know!

“My sense of pride is beyond words, but it is thanks to Steve and I am so grateful to him for the opportunity.”

Steve said: “I wanted to portray David in a ‘heroic’ light. His expression is one of determination and stoicism. Just like his fellow NHS colleagues and key workers, not thinking about himself, but the care and needs of those less fortunate.”

David began his career in the British Army, serving in Germany, Canada, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus and the UK. He was deployed on Operations in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and reached the rank of Corporal.

He joined the NHS as a student nurse before becoming an ambulance technician. After completing his paramedic training he was selected to join HART in 2010.

David, 62 and based in Bristol, is now in his 20th year of service for SWASFT, and is thought to be the oldest HART Paramedic in the country.

HART paramedics work alongside other emergency services personnel at serious incidents or threats to public health. They provide care to anyone within a hazardous environment who would otherwise be beyond the reach of care.

HART Bristol celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this month.

The Hold Still project aims to capture a portrait of the nation, recording the “fears and the hopes and the feelings” across the generations during the pandemic.

The final 100 images includes various keyworkers, virtual birthday parties, handmade rainbows and community clapping for NHS staff, and people dealing with illness, isolation and loss.

The exhibition is available to view at www.npg.org.uk/holdstill

Notes:

  1. For more information about SWASFT HART, click here.

Paramedic Mike speaks after successful assault prosecution

28 September 2020

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) Paramedic has spoken out after a patient was convicted of assaulting him and his colleagues.

Mike Jones, Newly Qualified Paramedic Will Kivell, and Student Paramedic Richard Waghorn responded to a potentially serious incident on 12 September in Camelford town centre, involving a man who had fallen and was reportedly unconscious.  

The man, who appeared to be intoxicated and under the influence of drugs, became verbally and physically aggressive when they arrived soon after 8pm.

He punched Mike in the chest and spat in his face, attempted to rugby tackle Will, and kicked Richard in the ribs.

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Members of the public stepped-in to help restrain the man, and police were called.

The man was arrested and conveyed by ambulance with police escort to hospital for an assessment. He was then taken into custody and charged.

Mike, who needed treatment in the hospital’s emergency department after the incident, said: “I joined the ambulance service to help people in need, and would not have expected to be assaulted.

“Although I enjoy serving my community, being a paramedic can be very challenging.  This was one of the worse incidents I have attended in my time with the ambulance service and in my other role with the police.

“Unfortunately it also meant we were unable to continue responding to patients during a busy night shift.”

Kevin Spillane, 27 of Camelford, was convicted on 14 September at Exeter Magistrates’ Court of four charges of assaulting emergency services workers. He was given a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He was ordered to pay a total of £450 compensation, placed on a curfew for four months between the hours of 8am and 6pm, and given a 20-day rehabilitation order with supervision requirement.

Mike added: “We would like to thank the brave actions of members of the public and Devon and Cornwall Police for their prompt action and investigation to bring the male to justice.”

Richard said: “A minority of people take the view that ambulance staff are there to be abused and assaulted.

“Thankfully other people came to assist us that evening, and without their interaction the outcome would have been far worse.”

A SWASFT spokesperson said: “This is another appalling example of the manner in which our people are frequently regarded by some members of the public. We are glad this individual has been prosecuted.

“Nobody should have to face that kind of unacceptable behaviour, especially not our dedicated and compassionate healthcare professionals.

“Sadly they face violence and aggression every day while they are trying to protect and save people’s lives, which can have serious consequences on them, their families and colleagues.

“Our people put themselves at risk for the sake of others, and we support whatever action is necessary to protect them from harm and ensure they feel safe.

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

Ambulance staff reported 153 physical assaults by patients and other members of the public between 23 March and 23 September. That represented a 58% increase on the 97 reported assaults during the same time period in 2019.

They also reported 249 incidents of verbal abuse during the six months, compared with 228 last year. More than one in four (69) of the verbal incidents were by callers to 999 Control Room staff. 

Paramedic Tracy Higginbottom shared a video message after she was spat at by a patient she was taking to hospital by ambulance in North Cornwall.

Tracy, who has been a paramedic for more than 20 years, said the incident in July left her feeling “contaminated”, and she took a month off work to recover.

In response to a letter from Tracy, Scott Mann MP for North Cornwall said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of her experience.

“Those who assault emergency service personnel should face the most severe punishments, proportional to the offence committed,” he added.  

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

People who assault emergency services can now face up to two years imprisonment after the government doubled the maximum penalty earlier this month. 

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: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charities/SWASC.