Our all action spell on the frontline with Magpas

Emergency medical care service Magpas invited reporter HYWEL BARRETT to spend a day with its Helimedix team to experience the work of the charity which is threatened by closure. He joined Dr Anne Booth and paramedic Simon Standen at 7am on a foggy and icy Monday morning at RAF Wyton.

AFTER preparing the car, anaesthetics and pain reliefs, paramedic Simon Standen informs the ambulance control centre that the team is operational at 7.20am.

There are already reports of two road accidents, and after just 11 minutes they get the first call of the day – a car has come off the road at Branch Bank near Littleport and overturned into a ditch full of water.

Racing through early-morning traffic in the rapid response vehicle, Dr Anne Booth and Simon find out a young woman had escaped from the car uninjured, albeit drenched and freezing cold.

This was one of the 30-40 per cent of Magpas call-outs when the team are not needed to give medical care.


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It’s part and parcel of providing an emergency service, but it’s not seen as one of the downsides of the job.

Simon said: “We would much rather go and find out that we were not needed than find out later that we were.”

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Magpas attends about one per cent of the 3,000 emergency calls received across East Anglia each day.

Dr Booth, on a six-month full-time fellowship that allows her to work for Magpas, said: “We go when the needs of the patient exceed what the ambulance service can provide.

“They are great but they are limited. We give a different kind of experience to the patient, as we have a whole armoury of different pain relief at our disposal.

“We are able to bring A&E to the scene of an incident, and because of this we get to start treatment earlier. This speeds up the time the patient spends in hospital and it saves the NHS money.”

Simon, on a permanent secondment from the ambulance service, said: “Magpas has a long-standing history with the ambulance service and has a very good reputation, and it is seen to be an achievement to work here.

“I joined in 2007 and it’s great to work in a small but amazing team that is at the pinnacle of pre-hospital care.”

At 10am, Dr Booth and Simon head to St Ives Town Hall.

This is not an emergency call, but a meeting with Councillor David Hodge, Mayor of St Ives, and volunteers who were dotted round St Ives and Huntingdon with collection boxes, raising money for Magpas in temperatures as low as -6.5C.

The charity inspires loyalty among many Cambridgeshire residents who want to ensure the charity can continue to provide its service both on the ground – through its rapid response vehicles – and in the air, through a helicopter.

The cloud hanging over Magpas at the moment is a funding shortage. It needs extra money to pay for a �helicopter. Its doctors had been providing �medical care on East Anglian Air Ambulance services, but this work has been awarded to another supplier.

Magpas aims to keep flying but needs money to provide its emergency �service.

Derek Allgood, one of the volunteer fundraisers, said: “We all need to put our hands in our pockets and keep Magpas alive.”

After the meeting, Dr Booth and Simon return to base. Shortly after midday the call comes in for another case.

A 72-year-old has fallen from a loft and down some stairs. Simon calls the Chelmsford control room, which sends teams like Magpas to incidents around the region, but is told that the woman has suffered a broken rib and is being treated by ambulance staff on the scene.

It’s a similar scenario at 12.40pm. An 80-year-old woman has fallen down an escalator in John Lewis in Peterborough. She has suffered head injuries but is fully alert. The report by paramedics first on the scene says the Magpas team is not needed.

However, Dr Booth and Simon are needed at a car accident. There are reports of a young woman fitting and having problems breathing after her vehicle left the road and crashed into a fence.

Within five minutes they are on scene at Coneygear Road, Huntingdon.

After assessing the patient, Dr Booth returns and explains that the woman is not badly injured nor has she suffered any brain damage.

“As soon as the brain is damaged a little piece dies,” she said. “We have a range of strategies to protect the rest of the brain, and the treatment we give means we can get the patient rapidly from the scene to a CT scan and surgery, so they have a greater chance of recovering.”

They return to base at 2.30pm. An hour later, Simon is checking out reports of a pedestrian hit by a car on the A141 near March. He waits to hear about the injuries sustained before leaving for the scene. Again no one involved was seriously injured.

It was a quiet shift for Dr Booth and Simon, but Magpas is all about being there when emergency care is urgently needed.

The Magpas night shift – the only dedicated night shift in the country – is taken by Lt Col Dr Lorraine Greasley, Dr Chrissie Hymers and volunteer paramedic Jemma Varela who ensure the charity’s 24/7 cover continues all the year round.

Dr Booth said: “It’s great that we weren’t really needed today, but we are always ready to help out when someone needs us.”

Whether that will always be the case remains to be seen.

Antonia Brickell, Magpas communications co-ordinator, said: “We are heading in the right direction now that the message is out there that Magpas urgently needs funding to provide the best critical care in the UK.

“Thanks to the generosity of the public and the support from the local press, the donations are coming in. But it’s still not certain that the charity will remain open. Please help us to keep the money coming in.”

INFORMATION: To find out more about Magpas, or to make a donation, visit www.magpas.org.uk

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