North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has paid tribute to its staff in the wake of the extreme disruption faced during the Beast from the East.
NEAS raised its operational status to level three of four – severe pressure. All but essential patient transport journeys were cancelled to allow the service to respond to those patients most in need.
Staff from all areas of the organisation battled through heavy snow and worked around the clock to respond to patients in need.
Two such employees were Belford ambulance crew Will Stoddart, 51, and Chris Aird, 34. As well as sleeping on station in between their night shifts, they endured a 22-hour-long shift after becoming stranded with other vehicles on the A1 near Alnwick on March 1.
The pair continued working by walking up and down the queue of traffic to check that the motorists inside were well. They also helped the police to get the snow ploughs through.
Paramedic Will said: “At around 2am, we got a job in Bamburgh. Getting there wasn’t too bad, but getting the patient down to Northumbria Hospital took us hours as we got stuck in a snow drift and had to be towed out.
“We became clear at the hospital just after 7am, half-an-hour before our shift was due to end, but just before we reached Alnwick, the A1 came to a standstill due to snow.”
After finally arriving on station just after 5pm, both men were unable to get home due to the weather. However, Belford’s Blue Bell Hotel came to the rescue, offering to put them up for the night and feeding them a fish and chip supper free of charge.
Other businesses to help the NEAS included the Co-op petrol station in Alnwick, which opened specially to let an operations manager refuel, and the town’s Hogs Head Inn, which fed crew members.
Meanwhile, when clinical care manager Chris Chalmers was unable to drive to his normal station, he spent his shift caring for stranded passengers in Berwick, liaising with the minor-injuries unit to accept a wider range of patients.
A scheduled care crew in Alnwick – Doug Skee, Paul Porter and Alan Priest – found food and bedding for patients who were stuck at Alnwick’s dialysis unit for the night due to blocked roads.