Since leaving Priors Field in 2005, I have been navigating the possibilities that come a with modern nursing career and have always been attracted to acute specialities, thriving in fast-paced and high-intensity environments. I’ve worked in various Emergency and Intensive Care departments around the South East and London, with almost four years as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the care of patients at risk of deterioration and resuscitation. Nursing has afforded me some fantastic opportunities, including the chance to travel, working as a nurse throughout Australia including in a rural and remote outback hospital.
In March 2020, looking for new opportunities, I had plans to leave the UK once again, but like so many others, the pandemic forced a change of direction. This for me, changed the course of my career significantly. I worked through the initial surge in central London as part of the critical care response, in the most testing conditions. In July 2020 I accepted an offer of a new role in Bristol, as a Lead Nurse, helping to set up ‘Retrieve’, one of the first Adult Critical Care Transfer services in the country.
Dedicated Critical Care Transfer services have, until 2020, only existed in England for Paediatric and Neonatal patients and their families. It was always recognised that this vital service was missing within adult Critical Care, but the COVID-19 outbreak forced the NHS to look at how we move the sickest patients between hospitals. This may be for specialist treatment, unavailable in a particular hospital, or as we have seen more acutely over the past 22 months, due to extreme pressure. To provide the best care to the most patients, staff have had to move patients from hospitals under severe strain to those with capacity, thus improving staff to patient ratios.
Our aim with Retrieve, was to establish and run a safe, well-governed, and fully commissioned service, changing the face of Critical Care Transfer forever and leading the way for other regions in England. Providing a dedicated service that supports excellent Critical Care transfers between hospitals, putting an end to ad-hoc, poorly regulated transfer. The presence of Retrieve ensures Doctors and Nurses stay in their own hospitals to provide care, no longer needing to leave their hospital to accompany a patient on transfer. We provide Consultant-led triage and support, as well as highly trained, expert staff to complete each transfer. Retrieve, with our own dedicated ambulances, keeps emergency ambulances and paramedics on the road, preserving them for pre-hospital emergencies rather than the transfer of hospital patients.
It has been extremely challenging; I am immensely proud of the team. Everyone has worked hard to create and develop a truly dynamic and innovative service. This was recognised as we celebrated our one-year anniversary in November 2021 with the news that we had been awarded the prestigious British Medical Journal, Critical Care Team of the Year. We have featured in local and national news, most recently with a piece for BBC Points West and BBC Spotlight as well as the BBC website https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-59866875
We continue to develop and look forward to a new year of progress, my focus on education within the service as well as regionally and nationally. The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges, but it has also given the opportunity for innovation and revolution within the NHS, which would have been, arguably, impossible without it. Nursing has proven to be a varied and exciting yet demanding and emotive career but exceptionally rewarding.
Amy Formstone, Severn base Lead Nurse, Retrieve, www.retrieve.nhs.uk