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Launch of highly-skilled HART

Press release - 12 July 2010

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) has launched a new team of clinicians specially trained to deliver life-saving treatment in hazardous environments.

SECAmb’s Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) began responding to calls today, (Monday 12 July) following an official launch last week. Members of the team have been recruited and trained in the use of specialist equipment and vehicles which will enable them to safely treat patients in the ‘hot zone’ of a major incident or at other incidents with environments such as smoke-filled buildings or where potentially dangerous materials are present.

The Trust’s first ever HART will be based in Ashford, Kent, but will be able to respond to incidents across SECAmb’s Kent, Sussex and Surrey region and, if required, in support of other services beyond the South East Coast boundary.

SECAmb HART will initially be based at a temporary site at Brookfields Industrial Estate, Ashford, for approximately 12 months before moving to a permanent base in the town in 2011.

The rollout of HART, which is a nationally-led initiative funded by the Department of Health, will ensure that people with life-threatening injuries at these incidents receive the treatment they need quickly.

SECAmb HART will work closely with other emergency services at serious incidents and in high-risk environments to provide improved life-saving support, triage and treatment.

The team will consist of approximately 40 clinicians, all of whom have undergone 10 weeks intensive training including in the use of specialist breathing apparatus and gas-tight chemical suits. Each member of the team has also received urban search and rescue and safe working at heights training.

The team will also receive further training in safe working around inland water and will form the ambulance service’s maritime incident response team.

SECAmb HART will use specialist vehicles including off road 4x4 and urban search and rescue vehicles as well as a state-of-the-art command vehicle.

When not responding to HART calls, the team will provide operational support with two Single Response Vehicles and will familiarise themselves with sites of risk across the region. They will also carry out a rigorous training schedule and engage with other responders.

SECAmb HART Manager Matthew England said: “SECAmb’s HART will significantly enhance the service the Trust can provide at major incidents or at emergencies with hazardous environments. SECAmb’s HART will allow patients who are trapped, or in areas previously deemed unsafe for ambulance staff to enter, the opportunity to receive clinical care at a much earlier stage than has been previously possible.

“Traditionally, at certain incidents, the ambulance service relies on firefighters making the scene safe before entering or has to wait for fire crews to bring patients to us. Fire crews will of course still perform this vital role but HART clinicians will be able to help remove patients from smoke-filled environments, for example; and have received the necessary specialist training to enable them to bring high-quality care to those patients who urgently require it.”

Head of Emergency Preparedness at SECAmb, Andy Parr said: “The HART initiative will mean that ambulance clinicians are now able to reach patients at the point where care needs to be delivered and to further influence the outcome of many of our patients. The SECAmb HART members have been working very hard over the past months to develop new skills to help in this new, exciting and necessary role.”

SECAmb Chief Executive Paul Sutton added: “As an emergency service, SECAmb is of course already trained and experienced in expertly dealing with major incidents and this will continue. However, the introduction of HART enhances that experience and capability further still. HART is a valuable addition for the Trust and I look forward to hearing of the fantastic service the team will provide across our region.”

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