1000th compassionate journey for End of Life Care Rapid Transport Service

27th February 2020

A SERVICE that provides transport for end of life care patients in Wales has reached a special milestone.

Launched in August 2017, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s dedicated End of Life Care Rapid Transport Service has made its 1000th compassionate journey.

Operated by the Trust’s Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (NEPTS), the team swiftly and safely move terminally ill patients to their preferred place of death, easing the stress from patients and their families and relieving the pressure on emergency vehicles.

The milestone was passed recently where a gentleman was transported from his home to a specialist palliative care unit.

Edward O’Brian, Macmillan Paramedic and End of Life Care Lead for the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “Whether it be from hospital to home or from home to hospice, the service provides dignity and allows the patient’s final wishes to be realised”.

“This ambitious project was put together to reduce the waiting time experienced by patients to be transported to the setting they choose.

“I am thrilled that the service has reached and surpassed the 1000 journey marker and look forward to the service assisting many more families”.

The service was initially trialled in four pilot sites in South Wales, which allowed the Trust to test the criteria and booking process ensuring the right questions were being asked, the correct patient data was being captured and to ensure patients’ needs were being fully met.

Now operating across all of Wales, the service has its own dedicated booking number and desk in the control room which healthcare professionals use to arrange transport.

The service has proved a great success with the average waiting time for end of life care transport now just 52 minutes.

Kevin Brooks, a NEPTS Operational Team Leader based in Swansea, has been with the service since day one,

Kevin said: “It’s an exceptional job and can be very tough emotionally.

“Whenever colleagues facilitate an end of life care journey, we’re always sure to call on them afterwards for a welfare check.”

Recounting a particularly moving occasion, he added: “There are times when we go out of our way to give people final happy memories.

“Last Christmas we were taking a young lady home to be with her two children in her final days.

“She requested if she could see the beautiful Christmas lights one last time.

“We diverted and spent some time showing her the light displays and letting her feel the Christmas atmosphere.

“It was a very special moment.”

Palliative care charity Marie Curie runs in-patient and community services in Wales’ largest hospice in Penarth, Cardiff.

Medical Director Dr Jo Hayes said: “We often need ambulance transport to bring very sick patients into the hospice or from the hospice to home to be looked after by our community services. 

“We used to request transport from the 999 service and, depending on emergencies elsewhere, might wait a long time.

“Now, with the Rapid Transport Service in place, vehicles often arrive within the hour and the crew members are specifically trained to look after patients near the end of their life.

“This collaborative approach has made an enormous difference in transporting dying patients in a timely and compassionate manner to the place where they wish to spend their last hours or days.”

NEPTS staff, who are healthcare support workers, were given face-to-face workshops and an e-learning package to help build their knowledge and receive training in the likes of communication skills and facilitating difficult conversations.  

Each journey is carefully planned and if needed, a nurse or doctor can travel with the patient for symptom control purposes.