Lifesaving doctors needed

PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 February 2015

Dr James Hickman, chairman and volunteer with SAVES.

Dr James Hickman, chairman and volunteer with SAVES.


EVERYONE dreads a call from the emergency services, but for Dr James Hickman it can be an everyday occurrence.

Dr Hickman is one of four doctors who volunteer for SAVES - Somerset Accident Voluntary Emergency Service - which means he is often called out of his day job and his bed to some of the most horrific accidents in the county.

The GP, who works in North Curry, was awarded an MBE for services to emergency medical care last year.

In 2012 he was given a BBC 999 award after he carried out an amputation 100ft off the ground and the Ambulance Service Institute also presented him with a special incident award for his role in helping victims of the M5 crash near Taunton.

Dr Hickman, who is the chairman of SAVES and has volunteered for the charity for 16 years, said: “It’s always very exciting to be given an award and being given an MBE was a huge honour.

“You do feel that lots of people are doing similar things to you so it’s really just recognising everyone in that field. It’s very humbling.”

Dr Hickman was the first GP on the scene of the M5 crash in 2011 and acted as a medical commander as emergency crews treated more than 50 people who were injured in the pile-up.

Another challenging incident he attended was when Rob Vine got his arm stuck in machinery at a mill, 100ft in the air.

Emergency crews had been desperately trying to free him for 45 minutes when Dr Hickman made the difficult decision to amputate his arm to save his life.

Although he attends difficult and sometimes dangerous accidents, Dr Hickman says the work is hugely rewarding.

He said: “Although it can be quite stressful it can be very rewarding when you make a difference.

“We tend to go to the incidents that are particularly challenging and complicated.

“We can be most useful when a patient is trapped and we can take our additional skills to patients if we can’t get them to a hospital as quickly as we need to.

“It can be a little bit disruptive of home and work life. I’m very lucky as I’ve got a very tolerant wife, family and colleagues and people appreciate I’m doing something useful.”

SAVES comes under the umbrella of BASICS South West - the British Association for Immediate Care Schemes - and the doctors are called out by the ambulance service when extra skills are needed.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) director of operations, Neil Le Chevalier, said: “BASICS doctors play an extremely important role in support of our highly-skilled staff.

“Within SWASFT there are a number of BASICS doctors who respond to incidents such as road traffic collisions, usually involving patients who have suffered significant traumatic injuries.

“On average, BASICS doctors respond to approximately 100 emergency calls a month, supporting SWASFT to deliver the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”

There are currently only four SAVES doctors covering Somerset and the charity is always looking for new recruits to train up.

Dr Hickman said: “There are patches of Somerset where it’s difficult to cover so we would like a few more doctors, particularly towards the east of the county.

“We would then need to provide them with equipment and training, which is a lot of what we do as a charity.

“We are also hoping to do some further training for our members and buy some more equipment.”

SAVES has teamed up with the Times to launch a campaign to raise £20,000 to pay for some high-tech life-saving equipment for the doctors to carry round in their cars.

The monitors will enable the doctors to check how a patient is responding to treatment.

To donate to the appeal or to hold a sponsored event in aid of the cause email

You can also find out more about the charity at

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