February 2014 - NWAS introduces the 'HART' of Team999

Within the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) there is an elite group of specially trained paramedics called the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART).

They are mobilised 19 times a day on average to treat patients in situations that can be so dangerous and complex, they have to undergo rigorous additional training to ensure they are prepared - including road, rail and air crash sites, explosions and chemical and nuclear leaks.

Ester Hooper, HART paramedic, is being profiled this month by NWAS' #Team999 campaign, which aims to show people when it's appropriate to call 999 and the care options available when they do. For example, a call to NWAS does not necessarily mean an ambulance will be sent or a trip to hospital.

Ester said: "Before the HART was set up, paramedics were not qualified to go into the 'hot zone' of an incident. Instead, they had to wait until other emergency service workers brought patients outside of the dangerous 'inner cordon' before they could be treated. We are trained to give patients care when and where they need it most."

HART paramedics have a range of vehicles at their disposal, such as Command Units and RECCE Vehicles. They are kitted out with the latest high tech equipment including high speed broadband, optical and thermal imaging cameras, weather stations, CAMOS satellite domes to monitor news networks, breathing apparatus, radiation/carbon monoxide detectors and gas-tight suits.

Ester said: "NWAS has a rich variety of resources which can help patients in almost any situation. One call to 999 may be referred to a Specialist Paramedic who can triage over the phone and give self-care advice, while another may require HART to be mobilised - and everything in between.

"That's what #Team999 is all about; showing people what's available, but also informing them of some of the alternatives to ringing 999 if their situation is not life-threatening. For example, they could call NHS 111 for guidance, visit their GP or walk-in centre or take alternative transportation to hospital."

Last year, the top three types of incident HART paramedics were sent out to were:

  • Incidents involving transport systems, including road, rail and air (15 per cent
  • Burns, scalds and explosions (10 per cent)
  • Incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and other hazardous materials (4 per cent).

Ester is the last NWAS employee to be profiled by the #Team999 campaign. The other team members have been profiled over the past five months through Q&A sessions, social media takeovers, roadshows, short films and a range of other activities to further increase public awareness.