Frequently Asked Questions
Are you part of the Air Ambulance?
No. Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance is an independent charity that provides a helicopter-based critical care service (HEMS) for both counties. HEMS medics carry out their role either full-time or in conjunction with their hospital jobs. The sickest patients or multi-casualty incidents may require the attendance of both BASICS medics and the Air Ambulance. Like them we rely on public support to keep our service running - although our fuel bills are a little lower!
Who can become a BASICS medic?
BASICS membership is available to any healthcare professional with an interest in pre-hospital emergency care. Accredited responders are usually consultants or GPs who have completed an approved BASICS training scheme. Policy is set by the local Ambulance Trust and BASICS scheme. Some schemes do allow other healthcare professionals to respond as part of multi-disciplinary teams.
Can paramedics and CFRs join BASICS Dorset?
Our medics currently respond under SAVES and at present, only doctors can volunteer as BASICS responders. This policy is set by South Western Ambulance Service (SWAST). We are aware that other schemes (e.g West Midlands CARE) and HEMS employ paramedics and nurses. This is reflective of the nature of their operations, time established, clinical governance and the availability of funding. We can not offer an expanded scope of practice for paramedics, nurses or CFRs and therefore we would just be replicating services already provided by SWAST. In some parts of the country the Community First Responder (CFR) programme is run by the local BASICS scheme. Here in Dorset, the CFR scheme is provided by SWAST.
What hours does the service run?
Theoretically, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Coverage is dependent upon the number of BASICS doctors volunteering in the area - the more doctors we can get on the road, the better our service will be. We are not limited by day-light hours and we'll turn out in pretty much any weather condition - most doctors select their personal vehicles to reflect this. Our medics are full of stories about calllouts at dark o'clock in wind, rain and cold!
What can BASICS doctors do that ambulance crews can't?
Paramedic practice has evolved rapidly since the first "Extended Trained Ambulanceman" qualified in 1985. Modern paramedics are now educated to degree or post-graduate level with a commensurate scope of practice. BASICS doctors were a key driving force behind the development of paramedic practice after realising the benefits of early patient treatment before transportation to hospital. Today, BASICS doctors can bring their enhanced skill set, clinical leadership plus years of experience out to patients who must receive treatment before their journey to hospital. They are trained in Advanced Life Support - including surgical interventions such as chest drains and thoracotamies. They can help with sedation when required or provide analgesia using stronger painkillers than those carried by the ambulance crew. Their scope of practice is a lot broader than many paramedics and their knowledge of the patient's future journey through the health service can help with making difficult decisions.
Do BASICS Doctors get paid for their work?
No. They donate their time, skills and use of their private car completely voluntarily. Some people just really enjoy their work! Where possible we provide funding for them to attend the mandatory training courses, purchase additional medical equipment and fit their car with blue lights. Drugs and medical supplies are provided by the NHS through South Western Ambulance Service.
Why are BASICS Doctors allowed to drive on "Blue Lights"?
Our medics are typically called out when a patient requires advanced emergency care. They may even be the first on scene. It is therefore vital that they can reach the patient as fast as possible. All BASICS responders receive Advanced Driver training from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAMS) before attending a Emergency Driver course with South Western Ambulance Service. Their private vehicles are fitted with all-round blue lights, sirens and carry appropriate insurance. The drivers and vehicles are re-tested every year by SWAST. The medics may only travel under Emergency Driving conditions when assigned to an incident by Ambulance Control. Sadly, this means joining BASICS is not a much of a wheeze for beating the holiday traffic!
Are you the same as the Urgent Care doctors?
No. South Western Ambulance Service currently provides an out-of-hours doctor service to provide medical care in the community. You may have seen the marked "Urgent Care" car out and about. These doctors provide a valuable service to patients who need to see a GP urgently but do not require the services of an Emergency Department. Some of our doctors may work as GPs but in their BASICS role they will only attend seriously ill or injured patients.
Why do we have BASICS and an Air Ambulance?
Although BASICS and HEMS seem similar they have different, complimentary capabilities. Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) usually carries a doctor/paramedic team and can deliver a pre-hospital anaesthetic to put critically-ill patients on to a life support machine. They also carry blood products which can be transfused to trauma victims. The helicopter can reach remote parts of the 2 counties quickly and likewise transport patients swiftly on to hospital. However, adverse weather may ground the helicopter and there are restrictions on night flying. Likewise, landing in dense conurbations can be tricky and may require a secondary transfer by ground vehicle for either the patient or HEMS team. On the other hand, a given area may have several BASICS responders available. They can be called out for patients who are seriously ill but do not necessarily need the full HEMS critical care capability, or if the helicopter is not available. They can operate 24 hours a day in all but the most adverse weathers. Being locally based in the community, BASICS medics can often be on scene first and initiate life-saving treatment whilst awaiting the arrival of the HEMS crew. Both BASICS and HEMS are funded entirely by charitable donations and are dependent on public support to continue operating.
What clinical governance do you have?
BASICS Dorset is the supporting charity for BASICS responders working in the county. Our responders operate under the auspices of the Somerset Accident Volunteer Emergency Service BASICS scheme. Our repsonders are all consultants or GPs and therefore licensed to practice medicine without supervision. They have completed an approved BASICS pre-hospital emergency medicine course. They are approved and annually assessed by BASICS South West who also provide clinical governance. Each responder has an honorary contract with and is under operational control of South Western Ambulance Service.