The event, held at Choppington Social Welfare Centre, was organised as part of Volunteers Week, which runs from June 1-7.
The Trust, which covers 3,200 square miles across the North East region, serves a population of 2.7 million people by handling all NHS 111 and 999 calls for the region, operating patient transport and ambulance response services, with support from over 330 volunteers.
Whether as a volunteer porter, ambulance car service driver, community first responder or governor, NEAS volunteers invest thousands of hours in the service every year with some choosing to volunteer to help them in their career path and others want to give something back at the end of their career.
In total, 62 volunteers were recognised for long service of between five and 20 years and 12 were highlighted for going the extra mile for their patients.
Two volunteers received certificates to recognise their 20 year dedication to supporting the Trust along with 13 volunteers recognised for 15 year service, 18 volunteers for 10 year service and 28 volunteers for five year service.
One of the volunteers who received a special recognition at the awards ceremony is Gloria Middleton from County Durham. Gloria has worked in the NHS for 30 years and 11yrs ago she volunteered to be a CFR for NEAS. Since then she has received ongoing training and responds from home or at peak times from work providing lifesaving immediate first aid in those vital minutes before an ambulance arrives if needed.
She says, “I became a volunteer for several reasons, I wanted to support emergency health services, primary and secondary care at times when everyone, whether it be due to winter pressures or patient demand, were working to full capacity and to help those in their time of need.
“I believe that if we all give a little and help someone in their time of need the world would be a better place. Knowing you have helped someone, saving their life, speaking a kind word, giving a smile, holding their hand and listening is something that no amount of money can buy, but it can make a whole difference to the person on the receiving end.”
She added. “I love being a volunteer. I just want to give something back to the community and that is why I volunteer.”
Yvonne Ormston, NEAS Chief Executive, said: “Volunteers make a significant contribution to their community in lots of ways in our organisation. Over the last 12 months, we have invested even more in our volunteers to ensure they have up to date skills and equipment to be an effective volunteer.
“Volunteering with NEAS gives people an opportunity to meet new people and invest in their community, often giving them experiences that will support their entering other NHS careers.
“Our staff and volunteers touch the lives of thousands of patients, and make a difference day in, day out. This event is about getting our volunteers together to show how much we appreciate their service and to say an enormous thank you for all that they do.”
Nearly 50 people volunteer as porters with the service, meeting patient transport crews at hospitals to and from vehicles to their hospital appointments. Last year they helped nearly 7000 patients at five of the region’s hospitals, saving crews over 800 hours so that they could be back on the road to their next patient, and completing over 8800 shifts equating to more than 27,500 hours. They also assisted 2393 members of the public to make sure they got to the right department for their appointments. This year NEAS has recruited 57 new porters and is currently looking at recruiting a further 15 in the near future. We have supported the volunteer supporters and offered programmes to help improve their IT skills as well as BLS CPR and First Aid Training and provided the opportunity for them to observe both A&E and Patient Transport Service crews.
Over 190 people volunteer as ambulance car service drivers (ACS) for NEAS. At least 23 of them have volunteered for over 10 years and two have volunteered for over 20. Together they have completed a combined 993 years of volunteer service. ACS drivers use their own vehicles to help transport patients to and from hospitals and clinics, which keeps ambulances free for emergencies and for patients too ill to travel by car. Last year the drivers volunteered over 195,000 hours, completing over 148,000 patient journeys all over the region – that’s an average of nearly 8.5 hours per day each – and reached over 4,000,000 miles.
All ambulance care service drivers will soon be issued with a new smart phone to replace the current tablet devices and have received new ACS car signs as well as uniform trousers. NEAS has provided ACS drivers with the opportunity to develop their skills by offering BLS CPR and First Aid Training and IT skills courses.
The service also values the support of approximately 100 community first responders (CFRs) who have been recruited and trained to respond to emergency calls when dispatched by ambulance control. They deal with a specific list of emergencies and provide the patient with support and appropriate treatment until an ambulance arrives.
Their aim is to provide immediate care to a patient where every second counts; a patient who suffers a cardiac arrest stands a much better chance of survival if a fully trained person with a defibrillator can attend the patient in the first minutes of collapse. Last year community first responders volunteered for nearly 1000 hours, attending to 1,269 patients across the region.
NEAS has boosted the recruitment of CFRs over the last 12 months, welcoming a number of new people to the team, with training to develop their skills. Fourteen existing CFRs are now trained to deliver Heart Start and CPad awareness sessions in their communities with access to training mannequins to support them when attending a public event or providing CPad awareness training.
Upgraded uniforms and new equipment such as new pagers, belt clips and docking stations are giving our CFRs better access to ambulance control as well as greater protection against the elements when responding, making them clearly identifiable in public places.