Richard’s story: Supporting patients through the ambulance service

This week is Hospice Care Week, a chance to celebrate the vital work hospices are doing up and down the country to ensure that everyone can benefit from the very best care when it is needed most. This year’s theme is ‘We are hospice care’, and over the week, we’ll be shining a light on some of the people who make St John’s what it is and sharing their stories. Our final spotlight is on Richard, one of our amazing ambulance drivers.

I’ve been working here for just over seven years and before I came here, I was working for patient transport for the NHS. I remember seeing the job listing and thinking that’s what I want to do, I want to move into palliative care. I’m from South London and it's over an hour each way for me, but it's so worth it.

Much of the time I’m helping to bring patients into our Day Care Unit, which is currently in a temporary location, while the new Wellbeing Centre is being built. I work alongside three other ambulance drivers and when I say bringing patients into the Day Care Unit, I mean we're bringing them here to St John’s Wood to access medical care, treatments, or therapies, to have lunch and generally to socialise with other patients.

As far as we’re concerned their journey starts with us and I suppose that is quite literal. We’re in a unique position in that respect and it is important that we create good relationships with the patients. On our journeys, we’ll have a chat and we even know their favourite music or radio station so we’ll make sure it is on when we’re going to collect them. Our job is to make them as comfortable as possible, and we don’t rush them at all. We ask them what time they want to be picked up and what time they want to go home and honestly, it's all up to them. We’ll take our time doing that, giving them the best possible service.

We have our patients who will come into the Day Care Unit on specific days of the week so on a typical day we’ll look at who we’re going to be bringing in and we’ll give them a call and work out what time we’ll pick them up. Then we’ll set off. Our patients have varying degrees of mobility too, so each trip can also vary significantly depending on that and access at their own homes, such as whether we need the help of stair climbers, whether they’ll be able to walk onto the ambulance that day or whether they require some additional support from a wheelchair or frame.

"We’re helping to improve people's quality of life, there’s no doubt about it, and what more could you want from a job?"

- Richard, Ambulance Driver.

When we know we have a new patient coming into the Day Care Unit we’ll go out and visit that patient at home and assess their mobility and access so we can pre-plan and ensure that we’re well-equipped to make their very first journey with us as comfortable possible and that it continues to stay that way. For some of our patients, coming here is what gets them out of the house, it’s a real chance to socialise and see friends, in fact, it's a highlight of their week. So, we want to make sure that we can keep them coming in.

We’ll also help transport patients to and from the Inpatient Unit as well as to any external hospital appointments. During the COVID-19 pandemic as the Day Care Unit was shut, we were doing a lot of these kinds of trips, we were taking tests to patients and taking shopping to our particularly at-risk patients and their families who otherwise couldn’t leave the house.

The interactions with the patients is what makes this job for me. We’re not after a medal or anything like that but the fact you’re coming in and making a difference to people's lives, well that's special. It's why I wanted to make the move into palliative care, and it has really lived up to my expectations. It’s a really rewarding job and knowing that you’ll see the patients and in some cases be able to make their day special, well that’s enough to get you out of bed in the morning.

We are incredibly grateful to have Richard as part of our St John's community and thank him for all that he does to support patients and their loved ones across North London. This Hospice Care Week, you can help us to continue being there for everyone who needs us across North London by donating here.

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