22 November 2019

THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE has outlined his support in a video message for a new bereavement training programme for air ambulance crews, highlighting a new initiative by Child Bereavement UK and London’s Air Ambulance Charity. The two charities have partnered together to deliver a package of bereavement support training for emergency air ambulance crews, doctors and paramedics. His Royal Highness is Patron of Child Bereavement UK, and of London’s Air Ambulance Charity’s 30th Anniversary Campaign.

In the short film, The Duke of Cambridge references his time as a pilot with East Anglia Air Ambulance, the impact of responding to difficult incidents, and the need for training for air ambulance crews and sensitive support for bereaved families.

This training is being designed and delivered by Child Bereavement UK, which provides bereavement support to children, young people and families when a child grieves and when a child dies. The charity is the UK’s leading provider of bereavement training for professionals whose work brings them into contact with bereaved families.

The training includes online and face-to face learning which will be rolled out to every air ambulance service in the UK over the next two years. It includes a short online training course within the induction process for air ambulance staff, and a suite of bespoke, CPD-certified face-to-face training sessions to cover topics including: breaking bad news in a crisis situation; considering the impact on professionals of sudden and traumatic death, including the death of a child; and understanding traumatic bereavement and supporting bereaved families.

There are 21 air ambulance services in the UK, all of which are charities that treat the most critically ill or injured patients. Each day, more than 100 crew members, doctors and paramedics will attend dozens of difficult and unpredictable missions to deliver emergency care in life-threatening crisis situations, from road traffic accidents to stabbings.

Based on the experience of London’s Air Ambulance, which in 2018 treated 1656 patients, 12% of patients will have such serious injuries they will die at the scene of the incident. In these cases, families need to be communicated with sensitively in a critical situation, yet air ambulance doctors and paramedics currently receive no specialist training on how to do this. In the months following an incident, bereaved families will often request to visit helipads to meet and thank the crews and help their understanding of their relative’s final journey, with crews often reporting feeling unprepared to talk to families and revisit their experiences.

The project came about after Frank Chege, Patient Liaison Nurse for London’s Air Ambulance Charity, contacted Child Bereavement UK in 2014 to explore ways the two charities could work together to improve the support given to bereaved families. Following this meeting, a scheme was trialled whereby families visiting the helipad to meet London’s Air Ambulance crew were accompanied by a Child Bereavement UK support practitioner. The scheme found that the opportunity to meet the people who attended to their relative was supportive in its own right; it also highlighted a clear need to support all air ambulance staff in their work with bereaved families – both at the incident scene and on subsequent helipad visits. A range of training needs were identified, pending a suitable funding source becoming available. The LIBOR 2017 funding round prompted Child Bereavement UK and London’s Air Ambulance Charity to renew discussions about this much-needed project, with funding from LIBOR fund subsequently awarded.

Dr Anna Dobbie, Consultant in Pre-Hospital Emergency Care with London’s Air Ambulance Charity, said:
“When our medical crews are called to a scene, we hope we can make the difference to a patient’s outcome. However our patients are so critically ill that not all of them will make it, despite our best efforts. Breaking bad news in the prehospital environment can be one of the biggest challenges that air ambulance doctors and paramedics face. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to relatives and loved ones in such difficult and emotional moments.

The impact and long-lasting effect of such tragic news will affect the individuals involved forever and it is imperative that we aspire to deliver this in the best way possible. Up until now there has been little, if any, training on how to do this and we really hope that this training package will help to improve the prehospital care of bereaved relatives across the UK. "

Rosie Mather, Director of Regional Operations at Child Bereavement UK, said:

“We know that these skilled air ambulance crews have a desire to achieve gold standard performance in all aspects of their work and have turned to Child Bereavement UK to facilitate their development in supporting bereaved families. Through training air ambulance crews to achieve a greater understanding of loss and grief and to provide enhanced care to families, this training will help mitigate the potential distress and long-term psychological damage for family members, which can result from being unsupported in crisis situations.”

The project will be launched to coincide with the World Extreme Medicine Conference 23-25 November.

Click here for a full transcript and to watch The Duke of Cambridge’s full address. 


Notes for Editors

Child Bereavement UK www.childbereavementuk.org

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals both when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, and when a child is facing bereavement. The charity has trained more than 100,000 professionals since it launched in 1994, helping them to better understand and meet the needs of grieving families. 

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London’s Air Ambulance Charity www.londonsairambulanceorg.uk
Email: [email protected]