South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

We provide a wide range of emergency and urgent care services across a fifth of England covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the former Avon area. We also provide Urgent Care Services across Dorset.

The Trust employs more than 4,500 staff, community first responders and student paramedics. We have 97 ambulance stations, three clinical control rooms, six air ambulance bases and two Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART). Our Ambulance service family is a team made up of thousands of people performing a wide variety of roles, all critical to our delivery of frontline, quality patient care.

Our mission is to respond quickly and safely to patients’ emergency and urgent care needs, at every stage of life, to reduce anxiety, pain and suffering.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

At the core of our Trust is the health and well-being of our people and teams. Recognising the challenging and demanding environment our operational people and teams work within, our confidential in-house health and wellbeing support service; The Staying Well Service supported by the wider People Directorate and Management Teams ensure the mental and physical health of our employees is always our top priority.

We launched the Staying Well Service in 2015, the primary purpose of the service is to support all our employees with their wellbeing, supporting with mental, physical and social issues. The Staying Well Service has developed significantly since it was launched, having a range of proactive interventions, alternative therapies and in house support alongside the supportive sign posting service. Thus, enabling employees to access emotional support such as counselling, specialist trauma work and a range of other advice and information services. Aligned to the Staying Well Service we have over 115 Peer Support Guardians and the service is led by a Head of Wellbeing, Lauren Dunn who, together with her team, triages and develop support plans for our people, having over 1200 referrals in the last 12 months into the service. We determine whether ongoing counselling, trauma counselling, financial advice, addiction advice or physiotherapy and so much more is needed to support our people back into full health. In addition to this, the Staying Well Service promotes proactive ways in which our people can stay healthy by looking after their mental and physical health. Our most recent campaign is called ‘Invest in Yourself’ and promotes a different proactive and interactive message each month, ranging from mental health, physical health or healthy eating to encourage our people and teams to look after themselves and each other. Alongside our people we are starting to offer an increased amount of wellbeing support to the families of those that work within our Trust.

We have also trained 160 of our Managers and Peer Support Guardians in Mental Health First Aid, which is a two day programme designed to ensure we can identify when someone may be struggling with poor mental health, and then to signpost them to ensure they receive ongoing support and treatment.

When any member of our people is affected by suicide, we implement immediate and effective support. This will include a TRIM assessment or a referral to our Staying Well Service in order to determine whether trauma counselling is necessary. If a group of people are affected by suicide, we will arrange for our Management Teams, Head of Wellbeing and Red Poppy will hold local drop in and support sessions to encourage as many people as possible to ask for help, should they need it.

Narrow divider

What are your current priorities?

Our priority is the wellbeing of our people, to enable them to be happy, healthy and fit, empowering them to thrive both in work but also in their lives outside of work.

As an Ambulance Trust we also priorities responding quickly and safely to patients emergency and urgent care needs, at every stage of life, to reduce anxiety, pain and suffering.

In order to deliver this, we recognise having a workforce that is happy and healthy is of the upmost importance. This is evidence by the Health and Wellbeing Strategy that was launched within the previous 12 months, and that is delivered as part of our Staff Wellbeing Engagement Group.

Narrow divider

What challenges are you currently facing?

Our Trust faces the same challenges as all NHS Organisations, we are facing increased patient demand year on year with limited funds and in turn limited resources. This places greater pressure on our people and teams who can then feel tired or overwhelmed.

We have embraced the national mental health campaigns, which we continue to promote internally, alongside our own internal messages and initiatives. We believe mental health is now discussed more than ever, and so we continue to promote the importance of this to ensure our people and teams are able to look after themselves and their colleagues, as well as asking for help should they ever need it.

Because the majority of our people work operationally, there is a challenge in being able to fully engage with them and share all of our proactive initiatives. We are currently considering ways in which we can improve our engagement to ensure all people and teams can get involved in our various campaigns and important messaging.

Finally, a challenge we are all facing is how do we get recover personally and organisationally from a pandemic that has been lived and breathed by our people for over 12 months.