Air Ambulance National Conference 2013 and Awards of Excellence

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AAA chairman, Bill Sivewright, addresses delegates. Photo credit: Association of Air Ambulances

This year’s Air Ambulance National Conference, organised by the Association of Air Ambulances (AAA), took place at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington, London. Offering a fantastic opportunity for those involved in this exciting field to engage with a number of key issues, the one-day conference saw 27 speakers spread over the three colleges of charity, clinical and operational.

Following a welcome from AAA National Director, Clive Dickin, the conference commenced with an air ambulances update from AAA Chairman, Bill Sivewright. He highlighted a number of successes of the year, including improved representation of the air ambulance sector as a result of the formation of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Air Ambulances, noting how it has allowed air ambulances to engage with MPs directly.

Prof Chris Moran, National Clinical Director for Major Trauma, then gave the first of the clinical talks on the first year of major trauma networks in England. Highlighting that survival following major trauma has increased by 20% in England since the introduction of major trauma networks, he said: ‘the introduction of a system led to a stepwise improvement in care.’

Prof Sir Keith Porter, Clinical Service Lead for Trauma Services at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, then delivered a talk on advances in haemorrhage control and the use of blood products. Outlining a number of important lessons that have been learnt from dealing with military casualties, he explained how damage control surgery can be used to improve a patient’s chance of survival.

After a quick coffee break, Dr David Rowney, Chair of the UK Paediatric and Perinatal Transport Group, spoke on the future of paediatric air transport. He explained the current lack of a national aeromedical transport service for babies and children and highlighted some of the challenges being faced.

This was followed by a joint presentation on night HEMS, where members of various air ambulance charities and operators spoke on some of the hurdles that were faced in the introduction of night HEMS operations.

Anthony Marsh, Chairman of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, talked on interoperability between ambulance services and air ambulances. Alluding to Sir Bruce Keogh’s recent review into urgent and emergency care, he emphasised that ambulance services have a real opportunity to create the step-change needed in the National Health Service and that we should be ambitious in our expectations of paramedics.

Martin Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of children’s hospice Julia’s House Dorset, ended the pre-lunch talks with an engaging presentation on how charities communicate, providing advice on how to stand out from the crowd.

Throughout the day there were a number of breakout sessions, offering delegates the opportunity to discuss key topics and areas of interest. Some of the highlights of these sessions include Dr Anne Weaver, Lead Clinician for London’s Air Ambulance, who led the ‘Blood on Board’ initiative, speaking on the pros and cons of carrying blood; Dr Gareth Grier, consultant in emergency medicine and pre-hospital care, the Royal London Hospital, speaking on cardiopulmonary resuscitation devices; and an open mic that allowed delegates to ask questions about the night HEMS operations.

After lunch, Nick Simkins, Partner—Chantrey Vellacott DFK, spoke on developments and areas of change in the charity sector in reporting on finance and fraud. According to the National Fraud Authority Report 2012, 10% of charities reported a fraud in 2012. Providing suggestions for best practice, the talk was both informative and interesting. This was followed by Alistair Maclean, CEO of the Fundraising Standards Board, who explained how the charity sector is regulated, before outlining popular air ambulance fundraising techniques.

Ollie Dismore, Flight Operations Director of the National Police Air Service, provided an update on the service, outlining future steps such as the rationalisation of aircraft processes and national contracting where appropriate.

Anni Ridsdill Smith, Director of Airate Ltd gave a talk on the importance of non-technical skills to the effective working of safety, security and time-critical teams. Comprising of cognitive skills, social skills and personal resources, Ridsdill Smith stressed that as much time should be given to the development of non-technical skills as technical skills.

Finally, Guy Opperman MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Air Ambulances, closed the conference with a brief explanation of the role of the Group. He said that its aim was to provide support and assistance in charity fundraising and to help iron out problems and issues of bureaucracy.

Before the conference was closed, Clive Dickin thanked all the delegates for coming and announced the publication of the Framework of a High Performing Air Ambulance Service 2013.

Awards of Excellence

This year also saw the Association of Air Ambulances’ inaugural Awards of Excellence. Held in the evening following the conference, the Awards were open to all air ambulance operations within the UK and nominations were made from patients, staff, management and the general public.

BBC television presenter Louise Minchin hosted the awards, her bubbly demeanour and genuine admiration for the nominees being well received by all. She was aided by noted GP and comedian Dr Phil Hammond, who added a number of comic interjections and moments of light relief.

Of the awards themselves, four were won by members of the London Air Ambulance (LAA), including: Gareth Davies as Air Ambulance Paramedic of the Year, Dr Anne Weaver as Air Ambulance Doctor of the Year, and Captain Neil Jeffers as Air Ambulance Pilot of the Year.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to LAA’s Dr Gareth Davies, who was recognised for his role in pioneering the ‘doctor on board’ model for air ambulances, taking life-saving surgery and advanced pain relief from the hospital to the roadside.

Other winners were Poppy Young, for the Outstanding Young Person Award; Janice Flower, who was named Charity Staff Member of the Year; and Jenny Ashman, who was named Charity Volunteer of the Year.

The Air Ambulance Campaign of the Year went to Devon Air Ambulance for their ‘Devon Ambulance on Tour’, and the Special Incident Award went to Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance.

The AAA Chairman’s Award was presented to Clive Dickin, for the great work he has done for the air ambulance community since taking up the position of National Director of AAA.

Following the awards ceremony, Dr Hammond performed a stand-up routine consisting of excerpts from his current tour. Recounting numerous mishaps he had as a junior doctor, the health commentator couldn’t have had a better audience, as guests were equally shocked and amused at his younger self’s clinical judgement, providing an excellent end to the day’s events.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 4 December 2013.

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