David is a Paramedic and an Operations Manager for the Community Engagement Team supporting the volunteers in the Thames Valley area.
My role involves supporting my team of training officers and volunteers, ensuring that we are using them effectively so that it has the best impact on patients. I am also responsible for the quality of the training that our volunteers receive and also support operationally by responding to incidents as and when required.
I really love the variety of my job. The volunteering part has grown naturally over the past years. I love to see patients and sort out concerns, but I also love to keep my team and volunteers happy and engaged.
Paramedics and volunteers have been hugely affected by Covid and their health and wellbeing has suffered. My team have been traumatised from the Covid related deaths, which were sometimes young people or people you wouldn’t normally expect to be so poorly. The impact was that we were isolated from our friends and families and as we were on the frontline, we also lost colleagues. We do move on, but it has had a lasting legacy.
There is mental health support available, and it is invaluable to people in the Ambulance Service. The support can be anything from peer support to formal psychiatric help. Operational shifts are relentless, paramedics can go from job to job without a break and there is little time to decompress or process your experiences. There is less of a stigma to mental health than there used to be, but people do still feel it.
In terms of service delivery, it’s really hard work. We still have a constant stream of calls and are sometimes waiting for a long time at the hospitals. Before, there used to be peaks and troughs and when there were no calls, you went on standby until the next job. Now, the opportunity of standby is a rare occurrence.
I’d urge anyone to think carefully if 999 is the best place to call, there are many places that can give you the support you need, from your GP to your pharmacist. If it’s not an emergency, a paramedic might not be the right person to help you.