One of East Midlands Ambulance Service’s (EMAS) first paramedics has been named in the New Year’s Honours List to receive the prestigious Queen’s Ambulance Service Medal for Distinguished Service.
Thomas Bailey, 64, based at Buxton Ambulance Station in Derbyshire, has worked on the frontline of the ambulance service for 40 years.
Thomas was nominated for his four decades of dedication to caring for emergency patients, for setting up a rural cave rescue service in Derbyshire to rescue patients involved in dangerous incidents, and he recently fought and defeated cancer.
The medal, which will be presented at Buckingham Palace in London, recognises ambulance personnel who have shown exceptional devotion to duty, outstanding ability, merit and conduct in their role.
Thomas explained that it was a complete surprise when he received the letter informing him that he is to be awarded the Queen’s Ambulance Medal – although for the last few years he has joked about being missed off the list.
He said: “When I first opened the letter, I didn’t think it was real.
“I was so surprised – although I have been saying for years that I would have to write to the Queen because she kept missing me off the list.
“I really am honoured, literally. I’m very proud, not just for me, but for the ambulance service and all my colleagues who turn up to difficult situations day in, day out, to help someone.”
Thomas joined Derbyshire Ambulance Service (before it became EMAS) in September 1979, originally based at New Mills, and was one of the first in the service to undertake paramedic training.
He spent many years fighting hard to have additional skills added to the paramedic role, and sought training in interosseous injection (injecting directly into bone marrow) and paediatric intubation (putting a tube into the airway of a child) long before they became part of the paramedic skillset.
In addition, Thomas became an accredited instructor to ensure that new staff received the best start to their career as possible.
Thomas said: “There is not much better than going out to help people. To be able to walk into someone’s crisis and help them so that there is a positive outcome, is a real privilege.
“My career has been successful because of the people I have met along the way who have encouraged me and supported me, and I have been very lucky to have had one good crewmate after another.”
Working in the Peak District alongside the Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation led Thomas to set up the EMAS Cave Rescue Support Unit in 2000, and he was one of just eight people to be trained to assist medically in many protracted and dangerous rescues. This unit was later superseded by the EMAS Hazardous Area Response Team.
On several occasions has spent more than 24 hours underground to ensure the safety and emergency treatment of patients.
Thomas was previously the recipient of the Willietts Award after he aided in the rescue of a patient that had fallen into a large silo in a quarry, by risking his own safety and climbing into the silo to treat the patient until the full rescue team could arrive.
Three years ago, Thomas was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in his hip and had to undergo surgery.
Despite his consultant explaining that he would probably need to give up work, Thomas was back in the driving seat after just six months, and has no intentions of retiring yet.
Peter Bainbridge, Ambulance Operations Manager for Derbyshire, said that Thomas has been an inspirational mentor to new colleagues joining the service, and has been instrumental in the training and encouragement of generations of new ambulance crews.
He said: “Thomas has been an exemplary leader and has gone way above the expected level of dedication expected of staff.
“His calm and professional approach ensures that learning with him is very well delivered, and he continues to be a leader and an inspiration to the hundreds of staff who have had the pleasure of working alongside him.”
Thomas is one of only four ambulance colleagues from the UK ambulance services to receive the award this year.
Commenting on his achievement, EMAS Chief Executive Richard Henderson, said: “I am delighted for Thomas that he has been named in the New Year Honours list.
“His dedication to EMAS over the last 40 years is truly inspiring, and he has been a fantastic mentor to many ambulance colleagues in the early days of their careers.”