Ambulance Services Pull Together to Help the People of Somerset

At times of adversity, the British population pulls together.  It was no different for ambulance services when there was a request for mutual aid from South Western Ambulance Service to help deal with the extraordinary scenes on the Somerset Levels.

With an area of around 25 square miles flooded and local communities cut off, the Trust had been providing teams of specialist paramedics, 24 hours a day, who were ready to deploy into the flood hit areas to provide medical help at a moment’s notice.

The staff, who are part of the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), are trained to operate in challenging conditions such as fast flowing water and can use their skills to rescue people from dangerous situations despite being in need of medical assistance.

South Western Ambulance had been providing a four man team 24 hours a day in addition to their regular commitment towards the HART programme.  All ten English ambulance services have a HART capability.  HART provides medical care to patients in hazardous environments such as collapsed buildings, chemical incidents, fires, working at height or where access is difficult.

Earlier this month, the other nine ambulance Trusts agreed to provide teams of two HART trained paramedics 24 hours a day to assist South Western Ambulance Service.

Chris Chambers, Head of EPRR at South Western Ambulance Service said:

“The team (from South Western Ambulance) have been actively working for several weeks, providing first class patient care in very difficult circumstances.  The role of HART is to overcome barriers to care, such as responding to emergency calls through the flood water.

However, the paramedics have also been working with colleagues from Police, Fire and other agencies to assist with the welfare of the people of Somerset.

This national mutual aid has provided a very significant assistance to the team, ensuring that we could continue through the extended period of this operation.”

After 10 days of assistance (3rd – 13th March), the mutual aid has been stood down now that the flood waters have started to recede.

Martin Flaherty, Managing Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives added:

“This is an excellent example of the way ambulance services work together to help each other out in order to maintain the very highest levels of patient care.

Within hours of the request being made, staff were en route to the South West using national assets so that local services would not be affected.  The whole operation was co-ordinated at the National Ambulance Coordination Centre (NACC) which is based at London Ambulance Service Headquarters.

Because all of the HART teams are trained nationally and use standard equipment, it made no difference whether the HART paramedic came from Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Norwich or anywhere in between.

For many of the staff it was the first time that they had been able to put their training to the test and this been of great benefit to all of the Trusts involved.  We will be debriefing the staff to see if we need to make any changes to the training so that we can take the service we provide to patient to an even higher standard.”