Gillian Bryce

My note within this edition of Beeline is one of the most difficult I have written to date; how to encapsulate all that Bill Sivewright has done for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA), during his time as Chief Executive Officer.

Bill retired in June after 11 and a half years of service. During that time, he has led, inspired and delivered a transformation in pre-hospital care for the people of Dorset and Somerset. It all started in 2011, when Bill helped to develop a funded helicopter emergency medical service desk to sit inside the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASfT) control centre. These initial steps cemented the collaborative future direction of pre-hospital care in the region.

Around the same time, he recognised that training and education formed the cornerstone of the charity’s vision for clinical excellence and believed that the future benefit of patients was best served by investing directly in those charged with delivering the clinical care. Therefore, he approved the initiation, development and delivery of a unique post-graduate education programme for paramedics, funded entirely by the charity.

In 2013, the first cohort of paramedics began their three-year MSc Advanced Paramedic Practice (Critical Care) qualification and in 2015, the initiative was recognised nationally when it won a Health Service Journal Award in the ‘improving outcomes through learning and development’ category.

In 2016, Bill enabled an expansion in numbers of our clinical team (including the recruitment of our first nurse), empowering DSAA to provide a full critical care service for every mission. During that year, a collaboration with Dorset County Hospital, Devon Freewheelers, SWASfT and the Henry Surtees Foundation also enabled DSAA to provide blood component transfusion to pre-hospital patients.

Bill then went on to lead the procurement of a new larger aircraft, with long range and night flying capabilities. In 2017, our AW169 helicopter, aka ‘Peggy’, became the first of its kind to enter air ambulance operations in the UK. Furthermore, with Peggy’s night flying capabilities, we were able to extend our operational hours to 19 hours a day, meaning that hundreds of additional patients were given access to our life-changing service.

Since 2018, DSAA has been providing an additional enhanced care service in the Dorset region by means of an outreach car, fully integrated with the NHS ambulance service. Bill’s incredible passion for supporting patient care, has been a driving force in ensuring that the charity now provides the same service for the people of Somerset.

DSAA went on to appoint two dedicated patient and family liaison nurses in 2018 and we are currently recruiting within this area, due to the benefit that this is providing to patients and their families across the region.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to provide a full 19-hour day service, not missing a single day of critical care provision. In addition to that service and in support of the national NHS response to COVID-19, Bill supported a request from NHS England which saw DSAA provide an additional inter-hospital transport service to support the movement of patients from over capacity hospitals, into hospitals around the country that still had intensive care beds. Furthermore, amid the pandemic and in further support of NHS networks, DSAA commenced a time-critical, inter-hospital paediatric transfer service.

During Bill’s time with the charity, the number of patients that we have treated has quadrupled. With numerous injury prevention initiatives, advances into research and the more recent addition of co-pilots to our operations, DSAA has stepped towards every opportunity to provide the best possible care for the community we serve. Bill’s financial prudence has ensured that the charity is in a healthy state for the future, as well as enabling so many of these significant innovations. That is no mean feat given the time of his tenureship.

Bill would be the first to point out, modestly, that all of this has been achieved with teamwork and collaboration, however, I believe that the results of a team are directly attributable to the quality of its leadership. Throughout, Bill has shown the highest degree of integrity, compassion, wisdom, and vision, while maintaining a great sense of humour. He will be greatly missed by all of us who have had the pleasure and privilege to work alongside him.

It is thanks to the excellency of Bill’s legacy that we had a significant number of applicants for the recruitment of a new Chief Executive Officer. With that in mind, we were thrilled to be able to appoint Charles Hackett to the role. Charles started with the charity in June and has a wealth of experience across both the commercial and charity sectors. I am sure he will lead us well and continue our path of developing and improving the service even further.

So, in short, a huge welcome to Charles and a massive thank you to Bill, with all my very best wishes for a long, happy and healthy retirement.