Discharges, dementia and the Derbyshire countryside: A day in the life of EMAS Patient Transport Services

A Day in the Life of Derbyshire Patient Transport Services

Derbyshire Patient Transport Services transports non-emergency patients with additional medical needs to hospital appointments 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. We joined a crew from Ilkeston for a day to meet some of the patients they transport and care for.

7:30am: As the crew arrives at Ilkeston Ambulance Station ready for their eight-hour shift, it’s a misty morning, but with the promise of some glorious winter sunshine. Today Colleen Bailey and Lorraine Holmes are in charge of one of the two Patient Transport Services ambulances based in Ilkeston. Colleen, 52, from West Hallam has been a Patient Care Assistant with EMAS for 27 years, while Lorraine, 45, from Belper, has worked in PTS for 13 years, making 40 years’ experience between them.

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Colleen Bailey and Lorraine Holmes next to a PTS vehicle outside Ilkeston Ambulance Station

8.00am: After a quick cup of tea and a look at the schedule of patients for the day, the care assistants check that the ambulance has all the equipment they require for the day – including wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and sanitising wipes – and clamber aboard.

8:30am: Our first patient to be collected is over in Breaston, but when we arrive he is still in bed and not well enough to travel to his appointment at the day centre. Having checked that he has carers visiting later today, we set off to collect our next patient in Long Eaton.

8:47am: Our patient in Long Eaton is also scheduled to travel to the resource centre at Ilkeston hospital to take part in memory stimulation and activities to help combat his dementia. He is in a wheelchair, so down comes the ramp at the back of the ambulance and he is secured in the centre of the vehicle using a special contraption called an NMI seat.

9.44am: With the help of another crew, we lift a bariatric patient in her wheelchair out of her home in Trowell and secure her in the ambulance.

10.15am: The bariatric patient is dropped off at the resource centre and we drive round the corner to the front of Ilkeston Community Hospital to pick up a patient and two occupational therapists for a home visit to assess what equipment she will need at home when she is discharged.

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Jean Beardsley ready for a home visit

Jean Beardsley, 83, a retired lace factory worker from Ilkeston, explains that she has been in hospital with problems with her knees since the beginning of February when she fell at home and had to be rescued by Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Jean said: “I was making some breakfast early in the morning when my knee went crack and I went down. I tried to get up but I couldn’t. My next door neighbour called for an ambulance but they had to get the fire brigade as the kitchen is very narrow and the paramedics could not get me up.”

10.45am: We drop Jean and her occupational therapists at her home for their visit, and we head back to the community hospital to collect 91-year-old John Shotton who is going home to Trowell after 11 weeks in hospital. John was admitted with a chest infection but is finally well enough to be going home and is very excited. He explained that he is originally from Durham, but moved to Trowell to work in transporting steel.

He said: “I’m feeling much better and I’ve got my appetite back.”

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John Shotton in the ambulance ready to go home

11.28am: We deliver John at home and return to collect Jean to take her back to the hospital.

12.00pm: We make the short trip back to the ambulance station for a lunch break ahead of a busy afternoon.

Over lunch, Colleen explains that Patient Transport Services attends patients of all ages – from tiny babies to the elderly, and it covers the whole of Derbyshire, all the way from the Derbyshire Dales down to Swadlincote. But the patients can be going to a wide variety of appointments such as dialysis, chemotherapy and physiotherapy.

Colleen says: “I love spending my days out and about, and you never have the same day twice. You meet some amazing people too – we once had an ex-army major who would only get onto the ambulance if we saluted him.”

She has also seen considerable changes to the service in the last 27 years.

She said: “It was much harder when I joined as you did not have designated PTS vehicles, we just used old emergency ambulances which didn’t even have a ramp for wheelchairs.

“We have also seen an increase in the number of bariatric patients across the board, but that is the same in A&E too.”

1.08pm: A patient with a walking frame needs transporting from a care home in West Hallam to her home in Ockbrook, so we are happy to oblige. 

2.55pm: We arrive back at Ilkeston Community Hospital for one last time to collect Brian Scanlon, 78, who has been for a physiotherapy appointment to help him with his hand-eye co-ordination following a stroke.

Brian, a British Rail Engineer from Toton, explained that he suffered the stroke at home in October and now relies on Patient Transport Services to get him to and from his appointments.

He said: “I was sat on a bed upstairs one afternoon, and when I got up I felt a bit funny. I went downstairs into the lounge, and next thing I know I collapsed. My daughter-in-law recognised it was a stroke and called an ambulance.

“Without PTS I wouldn’t be able to get to my physiotherapy appointments, and I wouldn’t get any better. I think it’s an excellent service, particularly when you are a wheelchair user like me. I cannot get in and out of normal cars.”

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Brian Scanlon in a wheelchair in the PTS ambulance

3.24pm: On the way to Toton, we stop to help another PTS crew support the bariatric patient from earlier to get back into her house.

4.30pm: Brian is at home, and Colleen and Lorraine return to the station to clean the ambulance and head home.

Lorraine said: “I have loved all of the last 13 years and I still enjoy my job every day now. It’s nice to think we are doing a good job in the community and helping people, and we see that as the majority of patients really appreciate us and the whole PTS service.”

Would you like to be a volunteer car driver for our Patient Transport Services? Email Lisa Haire at pts.vcs@emas.nhs.uk