GNAAS trains paramedics to respond to traffic accidents, simulating poor conditions and every possible emergency situation.
That afternoon, we drove the Maserati Levante Trofeo over to the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service Training Centre where the next exercises were taking place. A full simulation of a multi-car pileup, first during the day, then at night. This involved the Fire Brigade, Police, Ambulance Service, the GNAAS and the paramedics on the training course.
We were warmly greeted by Jamie Walsh who was overseeing the operation for GNAAS. A fascinating chap who works as the senior aircrew paramedic providing critical care to patients at the roadside. His other role at GNAAS is as a training manager, which involves the planning, organisation and delivery of GNAAS external courses such as the Pre-Hospital Emergency Anaesthesia Course and the Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine Crew Course. Before being part of the team at GNAAS Jamie worked for the North East Ambulance Service in several different roles. He has also worked as part of the British Superbike Medical Team, Moto GP Medical Team including remote medicine as part of a motorcycle adventure tour.
Walsh is full of energy and runs the training session with enormous passion and care for his charges.
“My favourite thing about working at GNAAS is working with some fantastic people and being in a very privileged position where we have the opportunity to help those people most in need.”
Behind the Fire Station, the day simulation was in full swing. Cars lay strewn across the road, grounds and hillocks, some piled on top of each other, upside down or sunk in a deep ditch covered in brambles. A mannequin horse straddled a car, partially buried in the windscreen. Adding to the chaos were fire trucks, police cars and ambulances, all lights blazing. The dead, dying and wounded played by trainee medical staff from Northampton University were scattered over the roads, in cars and possibly hidden in bushes. The accident had just been reported so a slew of paramedics were rushing into the area to evaluate the scene.
Jamie and other instructors watched over the paramedics to see how they reacted and how well they performed. Each of the trainees wore a Garmin watch that recorded their heartbeat, sweat and stress levels. All this data was being used by Northampton University to monitor their responses to extreme situations and match it to the recorded stress levels.
The trainees all wore bright yellow helmets and high-vis jackets and were presented with numerous technical challenges.
Each scene presented a different problem. People trapped in a car, thrown onto the road, through a windscreen, run over and more. The trainees must triage at first to prioritise those in immediate need. Then assess the situation and identify the best medical treatment to safeguard the patients. Often this means working inside a car to free people, or even searching in the bushes in case a baby has been thrown from a car. Once a diagnosis has been made then speed is essential to cauterise a wound, deliver a baby, perform emergency surgery or even remove a leg to free someone from a wreck. Every possible contingency is planned for and reenacted to prepare the paramedics for any situation they might face in the real world. The instructors looked on, evaluating their performance.
After a stressful day working on all manner of emergencies the trainees were given a break, to prepare for the night exercise that would be much more traumatic and confusing.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service is 100% self-funded. It receives no money from the NHS. The team raise all the money to save people’s lives independently each year. They even buy in their blood supplies. Anything you can do to help, contribute a little cash, raise funds, tell people about them etc, every little counts.