In partnership with the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), Magpas Air Ambulance recently launched a new advanced paramedic service. This new provision is predominantly based in Peterborough but serves communities across the whole of Cambridgeshire and sometimes even further afield.

Someone who played a key role in establishing the service was paramedic Steve Chambers, who we caught up with recently to find out more about the programme and what he did to help bring the idea into fruition.

When did you become a paramedic?

I joined EEAST in 2003 (I’ll be celebrating 20 years with the trust in November!), spending a few years working in the control room before deciding to go out on the road. I later joined Magpas Air Ambulance as a critical care paramedic and have worked with the charity for 12 years.

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You clearly have a lot of passion for the profession, what drives you to keep breaking new barriers in your career?

Something I really enjoy about working with Magpas Air Ambulance is that we’re all surrounded by like-minded people. From the trustee board and directors to the clinicians and support staff, we’re all driven by the difference we can make for our patients. This, combined with the fact that we’re a small charity, means that if you want to see the service develop, you can help to make it happen. I want to influence positive change and keep elevating the service we provide, and I’m fortunate to have been able to do that with Magpas Air Ambulance.

How did the idea for the advanced paramedic service come about?

Last year, along with three other critical care paramedics at Magpas Air Ambulance, we were coming towards the end of our secondments with the charity and were due to go back to working with EEAST, while new full-time paramedics joined Magpas Air Ambulance.

However, as we’d all worked with the charity for 10 years or so at the time, we had advanced skills to be utilised—and so I came up with the idea of us continuing to provide advanced medicine to patients using Magpas Air Ambulance equipment and responding in the charity rapid response vehicles we’re used to, while working with EEAST and broadening the service the trust can provide.

By doing this, we would bridge the gap between the standard ambulance service and air ambulance services, bringing an advanced level of care to patients who need it quickly, but may not warrant a doctor/paramedic team flying to them in a helicopter.

I wrote a proposal pitching the idea and EEAST and Magpas Air Ambulance worked in partnership to make it happen.

You had a large part to play in developing this idea into reality and getting the service operational. What did that involve?

Once the advanced paramedic service had been approved, the real work began. We had to sort out all sorts of things; like redesigning our kit bag layout to make everything accessible for one person, as we’d be responding to incidents on our own; ensuring the rapid response vehicle had all the comms elements in place, such as cradles for our radios, to make everything hands-free; working with the medical director so we’d be able to administer certain drugs without a doctor present (as there always is on a normal Magpas Air Ambulance shift); and so much admin, you wouldn’t believe!

CCP Steve Chambers

The service has now been running for 10 months now. What types of incidents do you get called to and how are they different from an air ambulance service?

As advanced paramedics in critical care, we can be called to pretty much anything the Magpas Air Ambulance team is called to—cardiac arrests, road traffic collisions, accidental injuries and so on. But we’re also called to obstetric emergencies (emergencies related to childbirth), life-threatening asthma attacks, seizures, housefires and cardiac arrests that are still in the early stages of detection.

By being able to be deployed to a slightly lower threshold of incident compared to air ambulance services, it means we can either prevent charities such as Magpas Air Ambulance from being called to something unnecessarily—saving the service for those who need it most—or we can identify earlier if they need an air ambulance and the highest level of care available outside of a hospital, that the doctor/paramedic team can bring.

Do you have an example you can share of how you’ve been able to make a difference providing care via this service?

One job that springs to mind is a home birth I went to recently. I was called routinely—a helicopter emergency medicine service would never get called to a home birth unless something was seriously wrong—but because I was there, I was able to help immediately when things took a turn for the worse.

The baby’s shoulder had got stuck, which is rare, unpredictable and usually managed in a hospital. However, because of my additional training and experience as an advanced paramedic in critical care, I was able to perform a procedure to maneuver the baby and get them out, before providing ventilatory neo-natal life support. After 10 minutes, we heard baby’s first cry.

However, it’s not just the immediate care that we can provide that makes a difference. Being advanced paramedics at incidents such as these means we can also support the other ambulance crew members that are on scene, as most of them would have never experienced something like this before. We also provide additional support afterwards; I help to facilitate debriefs with crews, liaise with hospital staff and generally try to help people process what are often very difficult incidents.

What do you enjoy about this new service and working as an advanced paramedic in critical care? What are some of the challenges?

One of my favorite aspects of working as an advanced paramedic in critical care is also the part that poses the most challenges: responding to serious incidents on your own. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re working by yourself, you don’t have a team member next to you to bounce ideas off or help manage the (often chaotic) incident scenes. However, after so many years of working that way, having a new challenge has been invigorating for all of us.

With the lack of on-scene support, we’ve ensured we have new ways to offer peer-to-peer support to each other and make sure we can discuss our cases and talk to someone if we need to decompress after incidents.

The new advanced paramedic service isn’t just beneficial for the patients we treat either, it’s also a brand-new career path that’s been launched in the region for paramedics, and we’ve already seen lots of interest from aspiring APs join us on observer shifts to find out more about critical care.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to provide this care, thanks to the partnership working between EEAST and Magpas Air Ambulance. The support we’ve experienced from both organisations, as they’ve worked together to offer us this unique opportunity, has been brilliant.

Magpas Air Ambulance rapid response vehicle