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 can swiftly and safely move a terminally ill patient to their chosen place of passing, easing the burden of stress from family and emergency vehicles.

The milestone was passed recently in the Ystrad Mynach area where a gentleman was transported from his home to a specialist palliative care unit.

Edward O’Brian, End of Life Care Lead for the Welsh Ambulance Service, and who oversaw the creation of the 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 for patients to receive the care they need in the setting they choose.

“I am personally thrilled at reaching and surpassing the 1000 journey marker and look forward to the service assisting many more families in their time of need.”

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

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 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 really and can be very tough emotionally.

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

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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 34-year-old lady home to be with her two children in her final days.

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

“We diverted into Swansea 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 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 alleviate any concerns over a patient that is likely to be very poorly.

A strict criteria of wishes and medical needs is always in place before any journey and if needed, a nurse or doctor can travel with the patient for symptom control purposes.

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