Penny with KSS CEO David Welch, Founder, Kate Chivers, paramedic Allan McHenry and Dr Kevin Fong

A South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) paramedic who was part of the first air ambulance crew to fly out of Rochester in 1989 has been recognised for her more than 37 years’ service.

Penny Scrimgeour, who retired from SECAmb this week, was given a fitting tribute by Air Ambulance Kent, Surrey and Sussex, (KSS), along with hospital colleagues as the charity’s crew flew into Tunbridge Wells Hospital this week to thank her for her dedication over so many years.

Penny, who was one of the first female paramedics to serve in Kent, retires 50 years since the UK’s first paramedics were introduced in Brighton.

Penny began her career with Kent Ambulance Service in April 1984 initially working out of Southborough Ambulance Station before other areas across Kent including Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Cranbrook, Coxheath Emergency Operations Centre and Paddock Wood. She spent four years working on the air ambulance. Most recently Penny worked out SECAmb’s HQ in Crawley as part of the Trust’s Operational Improvement Hub.

KSS Air Ambulance CEO, David Welch said: “I think 37 years’ service and the contribution Penny has made to her patients and community is absolutely phenomenal and she should be really proud of that.  And as the first female HEMS paramedic and first crew out of Rochester back in 1989, this is something else that Penny should be hugely proud of. It is fantastic that we are able to celebrate that.”

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations, Emma Williams, said: “On behalf of everyone at SECAmb, I’d like to thank Penny for her commitment in serving our communities over so many years. I’m sure she is very proud to have been part of the very first air ambulance crew in Kent and for everything she has done to help people in their hour of need. I wish her a happy and well-deserved retirement.”

John Weeks, Head of Emergency Planning & Response and Maidstone and Tunbridge Well NHS Trust, who has known Penny for many years and worked with her in the past, helped to arranged the special tribute to her.

He said: “It was a real pleasure to invite Penny to Tunbridge Wells Hospital for a retirement farewell. Penny has been a real friend to the hospitals in Tunbridge Wells over the years, promoting partnership working with the Emergency Departments. So it was also very fitting that she drove the first ambulance into the new Tunbridge Wells Hospital when it opened. I’d like to thank her for her commitment to patients and our staff over the past 37 years.”

Penny added: “I’m so surprised that they had done this for me and hugely honoured.  I didn’t expect it.  I’ve been very fortunate in my career and seen and done many things the public would not get an opportunity to do.

“Throughout an ambulance service career you touch so many lives and don’t really comprehend the impact that has. We may not remember all the patients that we see but they most certainly remember us.  And that’s just such a great privilege.”