Welcome to SWASFT

August 2018

Dorset dad meets lifesaving team


A Weymouth dad has met a South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) emergency response team who saved his life when he had a cardiac arrest.

Pat Moss, 56, was at home on Easter Sunday when his heart suddenly stopped beating.

His wife, Anne, heard him gasping for air and called 999. With guidance from SWASFT Control Room staff and assisted by her daughter Lauren, Anne carried out vital chest compressions to keep Pat alive.

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At a special event in Weymouth on Thursday 23 August, Pat met the SWASFT team who managed to restart his heart.

“It came totally out of the blue,” he said. “I was dead and gone. Without the caller handler, paramedics and hospital staff, I wouldn’t be here. I’m chuffed with all the care I received. It’s amazing to still be alive.”

The former Royal Navy chief petty officer was relaxing on the sofa when he experienced breathing difficulties.

He became unresponsive, and blood was seen coming from his mouth.

Anne said: “Our chilled-out Sunday turned into a nightmare. But the ambulance staff were absolutely amazing. We’re so thankful to them.”

SWASFT Emergency Medical Dispatcher, Tracy Guilfoyle, assessed Pat’s condition through a phone conversation with the family. Tracy then instructed Anne and Lauren to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to give Pat the best chance of survival.

SWASFT Paramedic, Nigel Cowan, Emergency Care Assistant, Joanne Brown, and St John Ambulance volunteer Community First Responder, Jon Ashworth, arrived within seven minutes. They were supported by SWASFT Paramedic, Ennio Tabone; Emergency Care Assistant, Allan Rodd; and Specialist Paramedic, Jim Bradley.

The crews provided lifesaving support, including defibrillation, to get his heart beating again.  

Patrick was driven by ambulance to Dorset County Hospital where he remained for six weeks. He has gone on to make a fantastic recovery, and has now returned to work.

Jeff Jones, West Dorset Operations Officer and Weymouth station officer, said: “I am delighted for Pat and his family, that Pat has made such a good recovery. This is part due to early and effective CPR carried out by his wife Anne, and a prompt and rapid intervention by SWASFT staff performing advanced life support, to complete the chain of survival. Pat’s incident highlights that with more people trained and confident to perform CPR, the better the chances of survival.”

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body.

Some 30,000 people are treated for cardiac arrests in the UK every year.

Just 9% survive an out-of-hospital arrest, but their chances increase significantly when CPR is administered early and a defibrillator is used.

A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone is having a cardiac arrest: call 999 immediately, begin CPR, and use a public access defibrillator if one is available.

SWASFT is reminding people to take care this Bank Holiday weekend

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is reminding people to use the 999 service wisely this Bank Holiday as demand for the emergency ambulance service is expected to be busy.

The Trust is expecting more than 10,600 incidents over the Bank Holiday weekend. Already in August the demand is up 3.8% on last year’s figures, that’s 54,667 incidents (1-22nd August 2018).

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Please help our staff and volunteers to help those most in need by only calling 999 in a life-threatening emergency.

SWASFT is making more staff and vehicles available to combat the increased demand and is also advising members of the public to stop and think before dialing 999 for an emergency ambulance and to consider alternative treatment options if appropriate.

Examples of when to call 999 include choking, chest pain, stroke, serious blood loss and unconsciousness. Using 999 correctly helps our emergency crews to reach those patients most in need of clinical attention.

Alternative healthcare options for less serious conditions include: visiting your local pharmacy, visiting a Minor Injuries Unit (MRU) or NHS walk-in centre, or calling NHS111. You can also find a whole host of information and advice online at http://www.nhs.uk

Dr Andy Smith, Executive Medical Director at SWASFT, says: “As the August bank holiday approaches us we are predicting a busy time ahead and although we have more resources out, we only have a finite number of ambulances and highly-trained crews available. This means we will, as always, prioritise and focus on those patients in a time-critical life-threatening condition.

“We’re committed to delivering the right care, in the right place, at the right time for the 5.5 million residents and the 23 million visitors we serve in our region. But we’d like to ask the public to stop and think ‘is this an emergency?’ before dialling 999.”

People visiting the south west this August Bank Holiday should also remember to bring any essential medicines and stock up on repeat prescriptions before they travel as many pharmacies will have reduced opening hours across the long weekend.

Ambulance station at Salisbury reopens

Salisbury ambulance team

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is pleased to announce that Salisbury Ambulance Station has now reopened.   

The site was closed back in March when ambulance teams were moved out to work from a temporary site at Salisbury District Hospital while specialist testing, cleaning and refurbishment took place. Although the site was handed back to the Trust in May further work has been completed for the ambulance crews’ return.

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As with the other sites in the South Wiltshire area affected by the incidents in March and June, government scientists have carefully examined the ambulance station and declared it safe to use.

Jane Whichello, Deputy County Commander for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said; "On behalf of all the Salisbury teams I would like to thank the staff at Salisbury District Hospital for hosting our crews and vehicles at such short notice and for being so welcoming.

"I’d also like to say thank you to all my staff for their patience and flexibility and continuing to do their job so professionally in caring for our patients, both during the incidents and every day in the community throughout this challenging time."

Cardiac arrest survivor meets lifesaving crew in St Austell

st austell reunion

A cardiac arrest survivor from St Austell has thanked South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) lifesaving crew and a former coronary nurse, who performed CPR that saved her life.

Beverly Symonds was at Polkyth Leisure centre for her regular Friday gym session when she collapsed and fell off a piece of equipment.

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“I can remember nothing else until I was told I was in Treliske and had collapsed and they wanted to do an angiogram.”

Sarah Wood, a former coronary nurse, was at the gym with a friend when Beverly collapsed.

“I couldn’t find a pulse so I started CPR – Polkyth asked if I needed the defibrillator which they went to get.”

At a special event in St Austell Ambulance Station on Friday 17th August, Beverly was reunited with the team who rushed to her aid.

Beverly said: “Without the team’s skills and professionalism, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“I was reminded just this week that only 5% of people who experience an out of hospital cardiac arrest survive.”

“It is thanks to the ambulance personnel and a lady called Sarah, another gym member who started CPR, that I am able to say ‘thank you’.”

“It is a reminder that CPR is a truly lifesaving skill that can have wonderful results.”

Lauren Hawkins, Emergency Medical Dispatcher for SWASFT, handled the emergency call and ensured that the crews went to the correct location.

Lizzie Watts, Paramedic from St Austell had just booked on when the call came through for a cardiac arrest.

Lizzie said: “The bystander performing chest compressions identified herself as a cardiac nurse who was exercising next to the patient when she collapsed.”

“She informed us that immediate assistance was given to the collapsed patient and since attaching the onsite defibrillator, they had shocked the patient one time.”

Lizzie and her crew mate took over CPR and administered a further two shocks through their defibrillator. Beverly’s heart was in one of only two possible shockable rhythms.

A second crew then arrived, administering adrenaline and amiodarone to Beverly.

Lizzie said: “Working together as a team, we all took a responsibility for a part of the resuscitation, something which is at the heart of all our training.”

“After three shocks, the patient began to show signs of life, regained a pulse and started to move her limbs.”

Beverly was taken to hospital in an air ambulance whilst Lizzie took Beverly’s husband to hospital to meet Beverly at the resus department.

Lizzie said: “I remember Beverly saying to us “thank you for keeping me here.”

“The overriding factor in the patients remarkable recovery, I am convinced, was the chain of survival which was instigated by the bystanders at the gym who initiated CPR and the administering of the defibrillator.”

“This is why community awareness and the accessibility of defibrillators is so important.”

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body.

Some 30,000 people are treated for cardiac arrests in the UK each year.

Just 9% survive an out-of-hospital arrest, but their chances increase significantly when CPR is administered early.

Paramedics urge people to step in and take action in an emergency situation to save lives.

If you suspect someone is having a cardiac arrest: call 999 immediately, begin CPR, and use a defibrillator if one is available.

Topsie rabbit raises money for defibrillators

Topsie Rabbit Children

Paramedics at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) are reminding people who have purchased life-saving Defibrillators for their school, work or business to register them with the service so they show up on the 999 emergency systems.

Three defibrillators have recently been installed after a Kindergarten and a Solicitors firm in Gillingham, Dorset, raised money for the life-saving machines to be installed.

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Parents of the children from Topsie Rabbit Kindergarten helped to raise the money for the defibrillators when a child there had a medical problem and together with a local Solicitors firm, Farnfields, held golf days and monthly dress down days to gather the funds.

The first training session on how to use the defibrillators and carry out CPR was held at Wyke School recently by Kate Fisher of the South Western Ambulance Service, and there will be a further two training sessions held over the next few weeks.

Kate Fisher, Assistant Community Responder Officer (Dorset), said: “Every minute counts when a patient is in cardiac arrest, so it’s really important people learn how to deliver basic life support and how to use a defibrillator. Cardiac arrest does not discriminate against age, gender or levels of fitness and can happen very suddenly. You don’t need training to operate a defibrillator, as it talks you through how to use it. By listening to the instructions and performing CPR you are three times more likely to save a life, than if you do CPR alone.”

If you have an AED please ensure it is registered with South Western Ambulance Service via the website https://www.swast.nhs.uk .

Sarah Snook, Manager of Topsie Rabbit Kindergarten said, “We started fundraising for a defibrillator late in July 2017. This was prompted by a child being diagnosed with medical problems, who may need to use one in the future.

"We started a Facebook post and involved all our families by newsletters. We wanted this to be available for public use too and not shut inside Topsie Rabbit, when we were closed. Before we knew it, we had received many donations from businesses and individuals.

"Farnfields Solicitors then contacted us and we met earlier this year. It made sense to join together and Farnfields already had a good financial agreement with South Western Ambulance Service Trust. The fundraising really took off and we raised enough to buy 3 defibrillators for public use, which are now installed.

"I am very proud of our achievement thanks to the wonderful families, the local community and Farnfields.”

Kate Fisher and Sarah Snook

Fiona Thomas, Managing Partner of Farnfields, added: “We have been raising money over the last 18 months to install defibrillators in the areas where Farnfields has offices.

"Due to a couple of successful charity golf days, generous donations by individuals and staff monthly dress down days, we have now raised enough money to provide four defibrillators, including the one at The Square in Gillingham in partnership with Topsie Rabbit Kindergarten.

"We heard about Sarah’s fundraising appeal through Facebook and as were doing something similar, it made sense to join forces to provide more than one defibrillator for Gillingham. Sarah has done a phenomenal job of pulling the community together to provide defibrillators in the town.”

Farnfields is currently in discussions regarding the location of the three defibrillators for which the firm has raised money and they will be located in the Shaftesbury, Sturminster and Warminster areas.

The defibrillators are leased from the South Western Ambulance Service for a four year period, the lease can then be renewed after this period. It means that the defibrillators are housed in suitable outside cabinets, remain unlocked for instant access when needed and are regularly monitored by the Ambulance Service.

Hoax calls put lives at risk

999 Exeter Hub

Paramedics from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) are reminding parents to keep an eye on their mobile phones during the school holidays after the service has had a number of unnecessary 999 prank calls from children.

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The 999 control hubs in the South West have received a number of hoax calls that have resulted in vital emergency resources being sent to peoples’ houses only to find no one there when they arrive. When they rang the caller back they were met with children laughing. This wasted journey meant that the crew were unable to attend genuine patients in need of care. (*NB: Example of a hoax call available)

All emergency calls are recorded and can be traced. SWASFT will prosecute offenders if necessary. Last year, in 2017, 774 hoax calls were made to the ambulance service which distracted paramedics from attending 91 real emergencies.

South Western Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Ken Wenman says, “Making hoax calls can put lives at risk. We strongly encourage parents to impress upon their children the importance of only dialing 999 in a genuine emergency situation. It is vital that people understand and appreciate the consequences associated with making hoax calls. We work with the police and other partners to seek the prosecution of people who abuse the 999 system.”

Examples of when to call 999 include choking, chest pain, stroke, serious blood loss and unconsciousness. Using 999 correctly helps our paramedic crews to reach those patients most in need of medical attention.

Alternative healthcare options for less serious conditions include; visiting your local pharmacy, visiting a minor injuries unit or NHS walk-in centre, or calling NHS111. You can also find information and advice online at http://www.nhs.uk

Devon community to benefit from new SWASFT defibrillators

Ilfracombe Responders

A Devon community is being promised even better emergency care after a South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) responder team were awarded significant funding.

Ilfracombe Community First Responders (CFRs) were recently given £2,235 from Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme. It will enable them to enhance the level of patient care they deliver in the local area.

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Specifically, the funding will provide lifting devices for responders to use on patients who have had non-injury falls, but are unable to get up.

It will also be used to purchase other medical equipment, including blood pressure monitors and thermometers.

Ryan Ware, SWASFT Community Responder Officer for Devon, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding which will enable us to further support the local community in a robust and safe way. The new equipment we can now purchase will be a great investment for Ilfracombe.

“Our volunteers give their time freely to help support SWASFT and our patients; and this funding will help them to provide more enhanced care for those in need. Thank you to everyone who voted for us.”

The Bags of Help scheme sees grants of up to £5,000 – raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to local community projects every month.

Customers vote for a local project using a token given to them at a store check-out.

The lifting equipment enables responders to move non-injury falls patients from the floor to a sitting or standing position. The scheme is intended to improve care of patients in local communities, and it means more ambulances are freed-up for higher priority calls.

SWASFT was given the Best Care of Older People accolade at the Health Service Journal’s 2018 Patient Safety Awards last month for the initiative.

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.

There are around 1,000 CFRs providing lifesaving support to patients across the region.

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.

Macmillan's Chief Executive meets ambulance service project team

Macmillan Visit1

The Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support visited a ground-breaking team of ambulance clinicians who have been working on a new joint project which is benefitting patients across the South West who have cancer, palliative care needs or who are close to the end of their life.

Lynda Thomas met the Macmillan Innovation Excellence finalist project team from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) this week at Bristol Central Ambulance Station (2 August 2018).

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Lynda heard all about how, through the joint project with Macmillan, the ambulance service can now provide improved urgent and emergency care for patients and their loved ones, by either supporting management at home or facilitating referrals to a more appropriate health setting.

“Today has been amazing meeting paramedics and seeing how the team are supporting people with cancer and end of life cancer issues, and what difference South Western Ambulance Service is making to people’s lives in the South West and I’m humbled by the professionalism and dedication of the staff, so thank you so much,” said Lynda.

Macmillan Visit2

Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT), Ken Wenman, said; “We’re very pleased to have welcomed Lynda to Bristol to meet the team and show her how this ground-breaking project between Macmillan and SWASFT                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     is benefitting patients. Most patients prefer to be treated at home and this project reduces hospital admissions to emergency departments.”

“We estimate that in a typical shift, each ambulance crew will attend a patient who has cancer, palliative care needs or who is close to the end of their life. This project enables us to deliver more appropriate care and in many cases, this means treating them at home. This approach enables us to deliver care more in line with patients’ wishes. We do of course still take patients to hospital where that is in their best interests.”

Ambulance services regularly encounter patients with cancer, yet they often have very little training about the illness so may lack the skills and knowledge to provide the best quality care. Sometimes, people with cancer are conveyed to the hospital emergency department when it would be more appropriate for them to remain at home. In the first collaboration of its kind, the South Western Ambulance Service and Macmillan have come together to combat this this gap in education and provision.

Lynda heard first hand from the team about their experiences before and after the education, training and support they have received through the project and listened to patients’ case studies treated by paramedics in their own homes, along with a show case of the project’s outcomes and benefits.

Macmillan Visit3


The aim of the Macmillan Cancer Care Development Project is to improve and promote best practice in cancer, palliative and end of life care for patients who access urgent and emergency care by calling 999. As well as creating a broad education package for paramedics, the project team have also developed and improved systems and protocols to give ambulance clinician’s access to specialist advice and guidance whilst they’re on scene. Ultimately, this ensures cancer patients receive the right care in the right place at the right time.

Ed Murphy, Macmillan’s Head of Service, SW, says, “Increasing numbers of cancer patients mean ambulance staff will inevitably attend more people with cancer. Patients prefer to be treated at home where possible and for many people at end of life that is also the place they want to die. Before this project, a 999 call would be far more likely to result in the patient being taken to hospital. This is changing for the better, giving ambulance service staff and patients more options.”

“Ambulance service clinician’s naturally want to save lives and this is what they are trained to do,” adds Joanne Stonehouse, Macmillan project lead for SWASFT. “It’s just as important for our staff to recognise when keeping a patient at home is the best option for them and their family. We are giving them the tools, training and support to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time and avoid unnecessary emergency admissions.”

“We are getting enquiries from other ambulance services around the country who are keen to follow our lead,” adds Joanne. “Once the project has been fully evaluated and the model of care established within our systems, we’ll be able to share our knowledge for the benefit of patients across the UK.”

Macmillan’s initial funding was £1m for the project over 4 years. This has provided a dedicated team to deliver cancer care training for staff, including administering additional medications where appropriate. It has also equipped paramedics with new skills to have sensitive conversations with patients and families when patients are in the last few days or hours of life or experiencing a significant health crisis. The project also involves linking more closely with hospices, GPs and other services to provide continuity of care.

Case study:

Specialist paramedic Simon Tutt recalls an instance where he put the cancer care training to good use. “I went to a lady who had bowel cancer and knew she was approaching the end of her life. She was distressed about her symptoms and her family were anxious. They called the ambulance service thinking hospital was the best place for her as they felt unable to cope with her condition. She didn’t want to go. I used my cancer care training to talk to them about what was happening and what we could do. I was able to relieve her symptoms using medications, allowing the patient to relax and sleep. I then set up a package of care for managing her symptoms, including a GP visit later that day.

“By discussing options with the family and agreeing what to do, by the time I left the family were reassured and felt they could cope. The GP came out the same night. A week later, I learned that the patient had passed at home, pain and symptom free. Without the training from this project, that patient and family would not have received the same service, enabling the patient to die in the place of their choice, with their family by their side and able to cope with the situation.”

The cancer care development project started in 2015 with a scoping period that analysed what needed to be done to achieve better care and how it should be delivered. Training commenced a year later and continues.

“When dealing with patients in such sensitive circumstances it was appropriate to spend time working out the right way to go about improving care and then train sufficient staff to deliver it before talking about it publicly,” says Ed Murphy. “Feedback from ambulance service staff who have used the training demonstrates the improved care delivered for patients. We will continue to work with SWAST and others so we can look forward to the day when all paramedics can deliver this care throughout the country.”

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.