Inspirational stories from the North East

Tuesday, 09 August, 2022

Prime-time documentary series ‘Ambulance’, following frontline staff at North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) as they provide vital urgent and emergency pre-hospital care in the region, starts on Thursday, 11 August, on BBC One.

Now on its ninth series, the team from production company Dragonfly were embedded with NEAS to film footage for the BBC’s BAFTA-award winning series between January and April this year.

At a time when the ambulance service has never been more under pressure, the series follows crews across Tyne and Wear, Durham and Darlington and Teesside.

Each of the 12 60-minute episodes for the upcoming series will feature the work of ambulance staff and the patients they treat during one particular shift, following them in real time alongside their colleagues in the Emergency Operations Centre where decisions are made in a highly pressurised environment.

Over the course of the filming, the service’s Emergency Operations Centre in Newcastle and Hebburn handled 162,257 999 calls and 219,844 111 calls, and dispatched ambulance crews to 125,382 incidents – an average of 1,045 incidents per day.

More than 200 people were part of this series, either in front of the camera or working behind the scenes to support the Dragonfly team.

The first episode, airing on Thursday, 11 August, at 9pm, follows the shifts of dispatchers Hollie and Tom, working within one of the Trust’s three Emergency Operations Centres, as well as ambulance crews Gateshead-based Kyle and Alex, Hawkeys Lane-based Gemma and Katie, Washington-based Sophie and Jack, and Gateshead-based Lydia and Kirk.

As well as featuring emergency incidents, the series highlights a number of issues faced across the North East, such as mental health, domestic abuse, and health and social care issues as well as delayed responses to patients caused by spikes in demand or pressures across the health system.

NEAS employs more than 2,900 people and covers 3,200 square miles across the North East region, serving 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, delivering training for communities and commercial audiences and providing medical support cover at events.

It has three emergency operation centres based in Newcastle, Hebburn and Wynyard and operates 175 double crewed vehicles and 220 patient transport vehicles as well as 45 rapid response cars, a fleet of support vehicles including driver training and specialist vehicles for the Hazardous Area Response Team.

In 2021/22, the service answered more than 1.15m emergency 999 and NHS 111 calls, with more than 270,000 patients taken to hospital, more than 48,000 patients treated and discharged over the phone and more than 115,000 patients treated and discharged at home. It responded to more than 22,000 C1 serious and life-threatening incidents in 7 minutes.

NEAS Chief Executive Helen Ray said: “The programme really shows how amazing our teams are in their care and treatment of patients. It highlights the dedication and commitment from every member of team NEAS as they strive to give the best quality care to every patient they meet. I’m incredibly proud of them all and would like to thank them for representing our service so well.

“Each episode shines a light on the wide range of patient needs faced by our service – whether that be emergency response for life threatening illness, support for mental health or social care needs, or alcohol and drug use. It shows clearly the pressure faced by our service and the wider health network around us, and the dedication of our brilliant staff to do their best.

“I hope this series of Ambulance also serves to inspire and encourage people to consider joining our service. Working for the ambulance service is so much more than a job, it’s a chance to really make a difference.

“It was a real pleasure to welcome the Dragonfly team and they were fantastic to work with.”

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