Two Johns celebrate 80 years on Nottinghamshire’s ambulances
Two friends called John - who joined the ambulance service together in 1979 and are still crewmates today - are both celebrating 40 years in the NHS.
Jonathan Shaw, 66, from Calverton, and John Elliott, 64, from Hucknall, actually worked together as undertakers for three years before joining Nottinghamshire Ambulance Service as ‘ambulancemen’.
Throughout their combined 80 years at EMAS, the two Johns have had babies named after them, attended the Kegworth air disaster and saved dozens of lives. They now work together on the CenTre Neonatal Transport ambulance where they care for critically ill babies.
The pair explained that they have seen huge changes to the ambulance service in their 40-year careers.
John is on the middle row, third from the left
Jonathan said that when they first started on the ambulances, they didn’t even have a defibrillator on board, or a siren to alert other traffic, and there was no heating so they used hot water bottles to keep their patients warm. Their uniforms were also black so they were often mistaken for the police.
He said: “All we had was a bag and mask for simple resuscitation, a single blue domed light on the top of the ambulance, and a bell to ring so people knew we were coming.
“There wasn’t as much traffic in those days – now you can see and hear an ambulance coming from a mile away.”
John explained that the other major change is the dramatic increase in demand on the service, with the number of emergency calls continuing to increase year on year.
He said: “When we used to work nights, you would hardly ever get called out. The pubs would shut at 10.30pm and there weren’t any night clubs.
“Now our crews start their shift and don’t come back to the station until 12 hours later, and a lot of that is due to people are living longer so we are attending patients with more complex health needs.
“But the way people treat us has never changed – the general public have always been amazingly supportive of us, and patients always want to find us to say thank you.
“And our attitude has never changed either – we go to every patient hoping to make a difference and to do everything we can to help them.”
Following industrial dispute by ambulance crews across the country, training opportunities were opened up to the workforce in 1989. John trained to become an ambulance technician, while Jonathan trained up to paramedic level.
In the last 40 years, John has helped to deliver 13 babies into the world, while Jonathan has even had two baby boys named after him.
But they have also been to some very challenging incidents. Jonathan’s first ever emergency call was to a house fire where people were trapped, and John was one of the ambulance crews which attended Kegworth air disaster in January 1989.
He said: “It was strange going down the A453 and not seeing any other vehicles, and then turning onto the M1 and seeing all these blue flashing lights and the tail of the plane sticking up in the air. It’s something I will never forget.”
Jonathan and John are now based at Beechdale Ambulance Station and have worked on CenTre since it began seven years ago. The service transfers seriously ill babies in incubators from one hospital to another, and the pair have cared for babies as premature as 21 weeks and weighing less than a pound.
John said: “We love working on CenTre because every single baby we attend needs us, and the neonatal team, around them to make sure that they make it in life. That’s a huge privilege.”
And although the two Johns now work part-time, neither of them are ready to hang up their ambulance keys anytime soon.
Jonathan said: “I’m proud to put on my uniform every morning, proud to represent EMAS and proud to serve our patients. It’s a fantastic job and we’ve always felt like we’re part of a big family.”
Jonathan is on the back row, second from the right