On Shift With HALO

over 7 years ago


Kirsty Elton is our Business Development Manager, a Yorkshire lass, and a vocal proponent of our Medicnow HALO teams… 

Known mostly for beautiful landscapes of green, dry stone walls, tea and of course our ability to chat to anyone... Yorkshire is definitely a beautiful place to live.

What you may not know is that like the rest of the country, our Emergency Departments are overcrowded and under a huge amount of pressure. With all that 'green', you'd be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Yorkshire is not that densely populated or that perhaps it's fairly evenly spaced out and so not as many people are competing for the same hospitals... but you'd be very wrong.

I work for Medicnow, a company that was born from an idea by a very intelligent and caring man, David Cranmer. Seeing that Emergency Departments across the UK were, and still are, struggling with staffing levels and being fined often hundreds of thousands of pounds for breaches on ambulance handovers, David offered his support in the form of HALO paramedics.

HALO paramedics (HALO, standing for 'Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officer') are deployed in A&E and take the handovers from the ambulance crews, helping to release them back on to the road faster, to enable them to go out to the next emergency call. They then carry out initial assessments and observations, including running blood and urine tests. In some hospitals, ambulance crews can often find themselves waiting hours to handover their patient.

We've all heard stories about how someone called for an ambulance and it took a long time to arrive, and this is why. If you haven't heard one of these stories yet, you've been very fortunate!

Although I have worked in health and social care recruitment for over a decade, I am aware that I am not at all clinical and I never profess to understand the roles my workers do, inside and out. I'm also always happy to learn something new, particularly if it helps me to understand my own role better.

So this week, I decided to go and shadow one of our HALO teams, at Pinderfield's Emergency Department, in Wakefield - part of Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust. Knowing how busy the department is, I prepared to see chaos, stressed out nursing staff and complaining patients. I was not prepared for what I actually experienced.

I arrived to a very busy department and checked in with the A&E receptionist, who was polite and helpful and pointed me in the right direction. I tried to stand out of the way, whilst I observed. I watched interactions between staff and patients, looked at how many ambulance crews were waiting and had a chat with patients who were waiting to be seen.

I can only liken it to synchronised swimming. I was expecting chaos and stress as I have seen the statistics for Pinderfield's hospital. Yes, it was busy and yes, I'm sure the entire staff team was incredibly stressed, but it did not show. The team were happy, caring and really impressively organised. Clients were moved seemingly effortlessly from waiting areas to assessment bays and the team were encouraging and motivating each other.

I spoke with some of the patients asking them how long they had been waiting and what their experience had been like. Out of the six patients / patients' representatives that I spoke with, six told me that they had not been there 'that long' and that all the staff there are lovely. One gentleman, who was there with his mother, told me how she suffers with dementia and can be quite difficult when they are trying to do any tests. He said 'she doesn't really know what's going on, but they still explain everything to her and have nothing but patience'.

Not wanting to distract the team while they were working, I tried to save any questions I had for quieter points in the afternoon. I was not surprised to hear that they see a lot of cases that are not classed as accidents or emergencies, and that there is a rise in the number of patients they see with mental health issues. I have heard this several times, elsewhere.

When I commented that I know a lot is being done to try and discourage people from attending A&E unless it is essential and that walk in centres, GPs and Minor Injury Units are being promoted, her comment surprised me, 'The sad thing is though that sometimes that can discourages the people who actually do need to come to us'.

Although my objective was to learn more about what our HALO teams do, and I certainly did... what I also came away with was an even more profound respect for our A&E teams. After just a few hours, I was emotionally and physically drained. I had seen some heart wrenching situations, been on my feet the whole time (rather than sitting at a desk), I was boiling hot and really thirsty! I had to constantly be aware of my surroundings so I could move out of the way of wheelchairs, trolleys, ambulance staff, patients or the department staff and I actually had a headache from a mixture of bright lights and noise! I felt so soft!

To cope with all the above for 12 hour shifts, week in week out, is an achievement in itself, but when you're seeing the sheer volume of patients that some of these departments are seeing and still dealing with it with a smile on your face and unending patience... I think they deserve our utmost respect.

I would like to say a huge thank you to the team at Pinderfield's for what was both a really eye-opening and rewarding experience. A big thank you also to our Medicnow HALO team at Pinderfield's, who showed me just how beneficial their roles are in A&E. It was great to hear such positive feedback about them from the nursing team and even from the ambulance crew!

I can honestly say a cold Ribena has never tasted as good as it did when I got back to my car!