When you dial 999, not only will an ambulance be mobilised, but a voluntary LIVES medic or responder will be notified, like Dr Kiki Steel and her husband Tim Nuttall. After winning the Grantham is Great Emergency Services Award, they told us about their work.
What are your medical backgrounds? Kiki: I qualified as a doctor in 1989 from the University of Glasgow, where I worked for a year before moving to Australia to work in anaesthetics and emergency departments. I started to respond with ambulances, and then returned and continued in A&E in Fife. I moved to Grantham in 1991 to start training as a GP. The St John Ambulance lead, Taff Creedy, persuaded me to become their divisional surgeon, before I was recruited to LIVES in 1995. I did my pre-hospital care training through the British Association for Immediate Care (BASICS), with LIVES being one of their schemes.
Tim: I undertook my nurse training in the military, qualifying in 1997, and spent 22 years in the Army working mainly in emergency departments or on operational tours. My first contact with pre-hospital care was in the early 1980s in Aldershot, with patients brought in accompanied by BASICS doctors. I joined BASICS in 1983, and after moving to Grantham in 2004 was recruited to LIVES by Kiki.
How often are you called out? Kiki: I deal with six to 10 LIVES calls a month, helping the ambulance service to back up their crews. I can provide additional skills and equipment, as well as having advanced medical knowledge and experience which can prove useful to the ambulance crews. However, it is vital that we work together as a team.
Tim: I get 10 to 20 LIVES calls a month, mostly road traffic collisions, as well as medical and trauma emergencies. I have a similar skill set to paramedics, but I am trained in additional skills and carry some additional equipment. My military background does give me added knowledge and experience. I am the national education facilitator for BASICS, which involves writing, updating and teaching their pre-hospital care training courses.
What made you decide to become LIVES volunteers?
Kiki: I enjoy responding to incidents as it is often a challenge, and having a pre-hospital medic there can make a difference. Our ambulance crews work incredibly hard, and the service is over-stretched, so sometimes a LIVES medic is the first person on the scene. Sometimes we are last and our services are not required, or they just need advice. However, it is always interesting. Unfortunately, most UK pre-hospital care providers are voluntary. This is historical and unlikely to change any time soon. The organisation relies on fund-raising to provide equipment and training for its members, as there is no government funding.
Tim: It is interesting and sometimes challenging. Being part of the team, which includes members of the public, community first responders and members of the other emergency services, all focused on providing the best possible care to someone in distress, is always rewarding. Our ambulance crews and solo paramedics work very hard, for long hours, sometimes in difficult circumstances.
What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a LIVES volunteer?
Kiki: While LIVES medics are trained doctors, nurses and paramedics, LIVES community first responders are lay people trained within a local group, to provide advanced first aid within their community. For more information go to www.lives.org