When the Covid-19 pandemic began to impact the UK in early 2021 it presented unprecendented challenges across the healthcare system - including the non-emergency patient transport service.
Thames Ambulance Service (TASL) was presented with the scenario of continuing to provide transport for our most vulnerable patients while also ensuring their safety, and the safety of our colleagues, amid a global pandemic.
We are extremely proud of our response to Covid-19 and it is testament to the expertise and vast experience we possess that we have remained operational throughout the pandemic.
TASL took immediate steps in the initial days of the pandemic by setting up a Covid-19 task force, comprising key members of the organisation and executive team, which met daily to discuss our response.
This Task Force acted as the guiding force behind our response by not only ensuring we followed the rapdily evolving government guidance but that we also provided reassurance for our colleagues, many of whom were understandly distressed about the situation.
Guidance from Public Health England and NHSE was considered and discussed by the task force before being implemented and shared with staff through daily Covid-19 bulletins. TASL even went further than the recommended guidance in order to provide colleagues with additional assurance, or example, full fixed bulkheads were installed in ambulances and face masks issued to all patients being provided with transport.
While sourcing PPE during the first wave if the pandemic was challenging, TASL worked closely with our CCGs and healthcare partners to ensure at no point did our supplies run out. By the time the second wave of the pandemic impacted the UK, TASL had robust supply chains in place through a range of suppliers.
The pandemic demanded changes to working practices both within TASL as well as across the hospitals we serve. TASL put in place a series of measures that protected our crews and patients - for example all patients were screened at the point of booking and enhanced cleaning schedules introduced.
TASL also called on the experience of our Spanish parent company to share leanrings from their response to the pandemic, which was at a more advanced stage. For example, TASL introduced the concept of dedicated COVID-19 ambulances and crews to convey COVID-19 confirmed positive patient. Dedicated Covid-19 crews were also given level 2 PPE enhanced with face visors and an additional disposable apron. Social distancing was maintained on board with patients requested to wear a type 11R fluid repellent surgical face mask throughout the journey.
As well as protecting our front line crews we had to ensure the safety of all employees and a range of additional measures were put in place. One of the most significant of these was the introduction of technology which allowed our Call Taking, Planning and Dispatch teams to work at home remotely. Not only did this technology protect their safety, it also provided enhanced business contrinuity by ensuring our services would not be significantly impacted by a potential Covid-19 outbreak in the Control Centre.
Working within healthcare during Covid-19 has been extremely challenging and we have done everything possible to support our colleagues' mental wellbeing. TASL gained insight and advice from a mental health professional to help guide our policies and also introduced a new Employee Assistance Programme, providing free and confidential support 247 for anyone who needs it.
While TASL put in a place a comprehensive and robust Covid-19 plan, we had to be ready to act quickly and effectively in the event of an outbreak within our organisation.
Unfortunately there was a small outbreak at one of our operational bases in Lincolnshire with one member of staff admitted to hospital. A rapid review panel was convened and Public Health England, the CCG and CQC all notified.
A number of actions took place with the support of the CCG to protect our colleagues, patients and public with a live dynamic action plan shared with PHE. Thankfully these actions quelled the outbreak within a matter of days and prevenred any further transmission of the virus. The employee who was admitted to hospital also began to make a recovery and was discharged to continue her recuperation at home with the support of TASL.
While the vaccination programme has started to have a postive impact for the nation we are still ensuring all employees adhere to the highest level of Covid-19 safety. It is through the exceptional dedication and professionalism of our colleagues that we have been able to continue caring for our patients safely - and we will continue to do so.« BACK