Date published: 21 July 2023

A long-serving and much respected colleague will soon be embarking on his well-earned retirement after reaching the milestone of 40 years of active service.

Nick Sentance, 66, who lives in Grantham, joined the ambulance service when he was 26-years-old on 4 July 1983.

At the start of his career, Nick worked at Grantham Ambulance Station as part of a Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services (NEPTS) crew based there. His responsibility was to support older people in getting to the day unit at their local hospital.

When looking back at this time of his life, Nick admits that his stint in the ambulance service was only ever meant to be a temporary arrangement.

He said: “Originally, I was a dance teacher but in 1983 the country was going through a recession, meaning the economy in the UK was not doing very well.

“As I was only teaching dance classes during evenings and weekends, this affected my income massively so I wanted to do something that would increase my finances while doing something meaningful with my time between 8am and 4pm, Mondays to Fridays.

“One of the things I love is being able to meet and talk to people, which is why I decided to apply for the NEPTS role as the idea was this would provide me with the additional income I needed before I could get back on my feet again.”

You may then start to wonder how Nick ended up sticking with a career in the ambulance service?

For Nick, his role in NEPTS gave him an insight into the work being done by our Accident and Emergency (A&E) frontline colleagues, who responded to patients in life-threatening situations. This piqued his interest in wanting to pursue a career in this part of the ambulance service.

Nick said: “When the opportunity arose to transfer over to the A&E Frontline Operations side of the organisation, I didn’t hesitate to go for it.

“This was in June 1984, and right there and then I knew this was the official end of my dance teaching days.

“I always remember one of my colleagues at the time saying that if I was still with the ambulance service in five years’ time, I’d be here for a lifetime – how right he was!”

A younger Nick is pictured in a group photo with other colleagues in a black and white picture. At the front of the picture is a woman carrying the first defib received by EMAS in 1984.

Nick (first from the left on the second row) pictured in 1984 as the service receives its first defibrillator - with the money raised by Nick and his colleagues.

Nick went on to qualify as a Paramedic in December 1990.

Four years later, he was a pioneering figure in launching what is now known as the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance.

Nick Sentence and a colleague pictured in front of an air ambulance. The rotas of the air ambulance are rotating very fast.
Nick (right) in 1994

Nick said: “After three years in the making, I was responsible for crewing up the air ambulance with paramedics within the county who would be able to respond to major trauma patients.

“We had never had an air crew before, so I was invited to RAF Cranwell to undertake aircrew selection.

“When we started, there were only six or seven of us and between us would do two weeks crewing the air ambulance, followed by three weeks of road duties.

“This was because it was important for us to never lose sight of the work which was happening out on the ground.

“The whole point of the air crew was to ensure patients with time critical conditions could get to hospital as quickly as possible, but we also remained available to support our road crews with our other patients too.”

In the late 1990s, Nick played a key role in the implementation of the government’s action plan, called ‘Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation’. The plan, published in June 1999, outlined the need for more public access defibrillators and the delivery of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training to increase survival rates for people experiencing a cardiac arrest in England – where only two or three people in every 100 survived.

Nick said: “The Department of Health and Social Care were after eight trainers across the country to take the lead on delivering training and public access defibrillators within their areas.

“During my time in the role, I was training staff based in the East Midlands and Yorkshire across various interesting locations such as airports and railway stations, in addition to implementing defibrillators in these areas.”

Nick Sentance in ambulance uniform standing with representatives from the British Heart Foundation and members of Lincoln Cathedral, with the cathedral in the background. They are holding up a defibrillator which was then installed in the Cathedral.

A defibrillator is presented by Nick and representatives of the British Heart Foundation for installation.

Nick’s ongoing efforts to improve survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests was not going unnoticed by EMAS, as he was requested take up a role within the Clinical Governance team – whose aim is for continuously improving the quality of our services and safeguarding high quality of care.

He said: “I analysed lots of patient records relating to cardiac arrests, gathering data to identify the lessons we could learn from these events to help improve survival rates in our local area.

“From my information gathering, I developed a framework which looked at actions we would take when at the scene with a patient to ensure we continued to give them the best chance of making a recovery.”

It was while in this post that Nick started speaking to a leading doctor in clinical research.

Nick added: “I was asked if I would be interested in setting up a project, to which my answer was yes!”

This conversation led to Nick setting up a study entitled ‘Are they really refusing to travel?’. This was an instrumental driver in modern day research and innovation at EMAS, committed to improving the care and experience of our patients by driving quality and paramedic practice forward.

Nick’s next chapter at EMAS began at the start of the millennium when in 2000 he began his new role as Community Defibrillator Officer, working out of Bishops Education Centre in Lincoln until 2007.

Over the last 16 years, Nick’s role at EMAS has been Divisional Resilience Manager in Lincolnshire. This has seen him responsible for advising organisers of big and significant events on topics such as public safety, the provision of adequate medical cover and considering civil contingencies in the event of an emergency.

In addition to this, Nick has been involved in the planning for high-profile visitors to our region, from politicians to members of the royal family.

In 2012, Nick also received a Chief Constable's Commendation for his role in the planning for the Olympic Torch relay as it passed through Lincolnshire.

Nick smiles as he holds up his Chief Executive Commendation.

Nick said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed this role, which has seen me closely involved with delivering safe events which matter most to the communities of my home county of Lincolnshire, such as the Lincoln Christmas Market, air shows at Waddington, and football matches at the local clubs.

“My job is to consider the plans in place for emergencies outside of the ordinary and working in collaboration with partner agencies like local councils, police forces, hospitals, and other relevant bodies to ensure we remain resilient in the event of an unexpected emergency taking place.

“We do this by continuously testing our plans to make sure our work comes together seamlessly in support of our local communities in the event of an unanticipated disaster, such as a major incident.

“The EPRR (Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response) team at EMAS are central to this and I have been fortunate to work with a great group of people.”

Throughout his career, Nick has faced some very tough moments with some very poorly patients, but he cites hearing back from a patient’s parents after they had suffered a traumatic injury as really standing out.

He said: “When I was working on the air ambulance, I provided medical treatment to man who was involved in an horrific accident.

“The patient had multiple fractures and a serious head injury.

“At some point down the line I received a phone call from one of my operational managers to say that the lad and his parents wanted to see me, and it was surreal to see him walking over to us with a card.

"The message within the card is something I'll never forget. It said: 'I am just writing to express our deepest gratitude for saving our son's life, you have given us the only gift a parent could ever wish for'."

While Nick admits it will feel very strange once he’s retired, he has decided to fill up his free time through volunteering work and projects that are close to his heart.

Sue Cousland, Divisional Director for Lincolnshire added:

“Nick having served within the ambulance service for over 40 years has reached a real milestone that not many staff can claim to achieve.

“His career has been so diverse, and he has been able to influence, mentor and support so many of us in those roles over the years.

“As Divisional Resilience Manager, he supports us all with his extensive local knowledge and wide-reaching relationships with fellow emergency service colleagues, which is immense.

“We will all miss him greatly and wish him a well-deserved, long, healthy and happy retirement – even though, we have heard a little whisper that we may see him from time to time continuing to support the Division.”

Nick stands with other members of the Lincolnshire divisional team outside of Lincolnshire headquarters. There is an ambulance car to the right of the picture.