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Staff and Patient Stories

PTS Ambulance Person, John Porter-Lindsey's experience of working with dementia patients

Matondo Manzeninga - Paramedic

Katie Thompson – Emergency Medical Dispatcher

Gordon’s experience of the Patient Transport Service

Allison Green – Community First Responder

Duncan's Experience of 999 and NHS 111 

  PTS Ambulance Person, John Porter-Lindsey's experience of working with dementia patients

To mark Dementia Action Week 2018 John Porter-Lindsey, PTS Ambulance Person at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, has given his account of the rewards and challenges of working with dementia patients. 

I have been a Patient Transport Service (PTS) Ambulance Person with Yorkshire Ambulance Service for 10 years. The role primarily involves transporting eligible patients from their home address or residence to hospital for appointments or treatment and then back again. We provide essential transport for patients who are not well enough or sufficiently mobile enough to take themselves or use public transport. 

The patients I see most regularly are those that we take to their renal dialysis appointments and because of the nature of the treatment we see them up to three times a week. Unfortunately some of these patients also suffer with dementia. The regular contact I have with these patients means that I do see their health decline as the symptoms of dementia get worse over time. This can certainly be hard especially as I have formed a strong bond and often a friendship with many of them. They tell me about their day, their lives and their families and I tell them about mine – that’s a really nice part of the job.

Working with dementia patients presents different challenges. Unlike other PTS patients they don’t typically require much clinical intervention and there is minimal moving and handling in wheelchairs or on stretchers. The care dementia patients require is more about the personal touch; it’s making sure they’re safe and calm and comfortable. Sometimes the most important part of working with dementia patients is just having a chat. It might seem simple, but it means everything to some.

Of all the patients I have worked with there have been some, should we say, more memorable ones. One patient, who I will call James, instantly came to mind when I thought about my experience with dementia patients. I’ve been taking him to his renal dialysis appointments for quite a few years now. He’s always been a chatty and jokey kind of guy – someone you can have a good laugh with. However, over the last year or so his cognitive function has begun to decline. Most noticeably he doesn’t seem able to hold a fluid conversation anymore. He has a tendency to go off on tangents that, to us, seem quite strange and unrelated but appear to him to be completely normal. Despite the dementia James still cracks the odd joke and has a laugh. Even though he doesn’t always make sense to us it is important to listen and continue to engage him in conversation as he can certainly still teach us a few things.

As James’ dementia has got worse I have had to make small changes to his care. Previously James was very independent and had no trouble finding his way around the hospital and was happy to take himself from the vehicle to his appointments. Whereas now I make sure I accompany him to the unit so I can nudge him in the right direction if he starts to wander off.

Fortunately James doesn’t get too upset or agitated, as is common with dementia patients. The hospital can be quite overwhelming and confusing and for some patients this can lead to frustration which can result in anger. This can be difficult to deal with but over time you develop strategies to handle these situations. The key is not to match their agitation, to remain calm and keep a reassuring tone.

It also helps that the Trust is committed to improving care for dementia patients. For example they have invested in Patient Transport Service ambulances with a dementia-friendly design. They have blue seats with contrasting yellow piping to clearly mark the edges, there is a brightly coloured strip around the steps to clearly define them and the handrails are in a bright, contrasting colour so as they are easily visible. These features are all designed for people with reduced sight or cognitive function. Additionally, all staff are encouraged to undertake a dementia training module designed to increase awareness and provide guidance for treating patients with dementia.

Working with dementia patients is not only about the challenges, it can be incredibly rewarding. I know I am working with someone who needs my help and someone who relies on me to get them to their appointment so when I get them to their destination calm and relaxed I feel really proud. Like with any patient I do my best, I get them there safely and I make sure they have a pleasant journey and enjoy their time on my vehicle as much as possible.

Matondo Manzeninga- Paramedic

Matondo, from Leeds, has known he wanted to be a Paramedic since he was just fifteen years old. He studied Paramedic Science at Greenwich University where he undertook a placement with London Ambulance Service (LAS). Matondo said his time at LAS was a great experience but he wanted to return home to Yorkshire. So, after graduating in 2017 he returned to Leeds and began working for Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS).

Matondo has certainly not regretted his decision. He said “I love every minute of the job. Every day, every incident and every patient is different and that’s great. The job tests me and pushes me to think on the spot and I get a real buzz from that.”

Patient care is always at the forefront of Matondo’s mind. “I always make sure patients have all the help and support they need and love going the extra mile for them. When we receive thanks from our patients that’s a bonus. It isn’t why we do it but it does make a real difference to us.”

During his time at YAS, Matondo has felt very welcome and supported. Talking about his clinical supervisor he said, “It helps to know there is a friend at the end of the phone to provide support and advice should I need it.”

Having achieved his childhood dream of becoming a Paramedic hasn’t slowed Matondo’s ambition. He is currently undertaking a mentoring course at Bradford University so that he can continue to learn and excel in his role.

You can see Matondo in action on ITV’s A&E Live on Tuesday 22, Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 May at 9pm. Alternatively, follow #AandELive on Twitter.

Katie Thompson – Emergency Medical Dispatcher

Paramedic Ray and student paramedic Greg were on duty when they received a call to a patient with breathing difficulties.

Katie was the Emergency Medical Dispatcher for this call, working in one of our two Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs). Katie’s role is to get the right information from the caller to arrange the most appropriate response. The 999 call was made by the patient’s friend, after the patient had texted to say that she was struggling to breathe. Katie made direct contact with the patient and soon realised that she was in severe difficulty and could not speak in full sentences.

As Katie was fairly new to her role, she was working with a mentor who advised that the patient should communicate with Katie by pressing on her phone keypad - once for “no” and twice for “yes”. Katie recognised the seriousness of the patient’s condition and, following discussion with a team leader, the call was upgraded to ensure that help got to the patient as quickly as possible.

Fellow dispatcher Nicky searched for the nearest available ambulance crew and sent Ray and Greg to the incident. They arrived within eight minutes and treated the patient to reverse the effects of her condition, before taking her to hospital.

After the incident, Ray and Greg called the EOC to pass on their thanks to Katie for recognising that the patient was not breathing properly and acting on this quickly. The crew were also very grateful to Nicky and the team leader for their quick response and strongly believe that the decision to upgrade the call saved the patient’s life.

Following her compliment from the crew, Katie said: “Once an ambulance had been called by the patient’s friend, there was no statutory requirement for me to call the patient, but I just wanted to make sure that she was OK, as well as reassuring her that help had been arranged.

“It is always nice to be reassured that help is on the way in a scary situation such as struggling to breathe. When I found out that the crew had submitted a compliment about me, I felt really good. I rang my family straightaway to tell them I’d been recognised for doing a good job.

“I’m really pleased to know that my actions helped to save the patient’s life; it’s a really good feeling. I love working in the EOC and it is nice to know that we are making a difference to people’s lives and often people are really grateful.”

Katie volunteers as a Community First Responder in her spare time.


Gordon’s experience of the Patient Transport Service

In June last year, Gordon was diagnosed with an illness which caused kidney failure and resulted in him needing dialysis in Leeds three times a week, with each session lasting four hours. Here, Gordon describes his experience of using the Patient Transport Service.

“When I first started outpatient dialysis at St James’s Hospital on my very first day, I had a visit from Ann-Marie Kelly and a colleague. They were undertaking a patient review of the transport service, as there were going to be some changes, but being new, I wasn’t aware of what they were. Ann-Marie spoke to me and was very open about the changes and the reasons for them.

“Whilst I was at St James’s, I had a few bad experiences, with transport taking over two hours to arrive for my return journey home, which is demoralising and upsetting, as after dialysis, you are tired and drained; the procedure takes a lot out of you and all you want is to get home.

“Bearing in mind I live the best part of 30 miles away, it was sometimes a long time before I got home. There are always legitimate reasons such as volume of traffic, accidents or emergencies that require resources to be sent elsewhere or genuine mistakes and, as long as it’s not a precedent and only happens occasionally, then to me it’s no big deal.”

We aim to deliver the best possible service to all of our patients and, if there is an occasion when this level of service does not meet the required standards, we aim to resolve this as quickly as possible. Gordon goes on to explain how this has been the case for him.

“When any of the above happened and I was left waiting, I would contact Ann-Marie. She couldn’t be more helpful and always got me transport as soon as possible. We have a good relationship and she knows what I’m like. I always try to have a laugh about things, as there’s no point being serious and you can’t change what’s happened if the transport is late.

“Since receiving my dialysis at Beeston, the transport has improved greatly. I was always picked up on time and never late getting there, my return journey was with the volunteer drivers and I have to say what lovely people they all were - every last one of them. I had many different Volunteer Car Service drivers, but all of them were very courteous and professional. They are a credit to the Patient Transport Service, as are the ambulance staff. For the most part, they would be waiting as I finished my dialysis or they would arrive within five minutes.

“I have nothing but praise for how I have been treated by the Patient Transport Service and I have been extremely grateful for all the transport staff and drivers who, along with the NHS, keep me alive at no charge to myself and, if there’s an odd glitch in getting me home on time, so what? I’m still here; alive and enjoying life.”


 Allison Green – Community First Responder

Allison was dispatched to a patient with severe breathing difficulties. She was an elderly lady and lived with her friend who was also elderly and suffered from dementia.

Soon after Allison arrived, a paramedic in a rapid response vehicle turned up, quickly followed by an ambulance. The ambulance crew recommended that the patient went to hospital, but she initially refused to go, because she did not want to leave her friend who became very anxious and confused when she was not around.

For 20 minutes, the crew did their best to persuade the patient to go to hospital, eventually phoning a relative to come and stay with her friend. However, it was going to be some time before the family member could get to the house, so Allison suggested that she could stay with the patient’s friend. Allison confirmed that this was OK with control and the crew then took the patient to hospital.

Speaking about what happened next, Allison said: “Once the patient had left, her friend became very anxious and she was terrified that I would leave her on her own. I continually reassured her, took my jacket off and made us both a cup of tea, and only then did she start to relax.

“I then noticed a wonderful photograph of two young girls on a horse from around the 1930s and the lady explained that it was her and her friend. She then regaled me with tales of her younger life; it was so fascinating.

“Around an hour-and-a-half later, the patient’s family arrived. I reassured them and made sure that they had contact numbers for the hospital to find out about their relative. I eventually left around two to three hours after my arrival.”

Duncan's Experience of 999 and NHS 111

Duncan has had two experiences of using YAS. The first was in 2016 when his wife, Margaret, fell and broke three vertebrae in her back. Duncan felt that the 999 service was excellent. The call handler advised him how to stop his wife from moving to prevent further injury and a Community First Responder (CFR) arrived within minutes. The ambulance arrived within 10 minutes of Margaret’s fall. Whilst the crew prepared Margaret for the journey to hospital, the CFR cleaned their carpet to stop the blood from setting. Duncan was very pleased with the level of care and compassion that he and his wife received.

Duncan was equally impressed with his most recent experience of using YAS. He suffered a chest infection before Christmas 2017 and was prescribed antibiotics, but he started having a reaction to the medication on the evening of 23 December. He phoned NHS 111 for advice and was given an appointment with a doctor for that evening.

He was relieved and impressed by how quick and easy it was to access the help he needed via NHS 111. Duncan said that the call handler was polite, helpful and reassuring. Thankfully, the out-of-hours GP gave Duncan the treatment he needed for his chest infection, whilst preventing further reactions.

Speaking about his experiences of using NHS 111 and the 999 service, Duncan said: “Being older is no problem to the NHS, in fact they pull out all the stops in any emergency. I have every confidence in all aspects of the NHS.”