A new online wellbeing programme – Crew Care, launched by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA), which aims to provide an insight into the mental health of individuals who work within the Critical Care Team and promote positive wellbeing, has been shortlisted for a Third Sector Digital Innovation Award.

The programme is the first of its kind to be launched by an air ambulance charity in the UK, and is the result of 18 months incredible work by HEMS Doctor Matt Kerton, HIOWAA and Signature Flight Support, who generously funded the programme.

Paramedics, dispatch assistants, doctors and pilots who form the HIOWAA Critical Care Team, often find themselves confronting distressing emergency situations in extreme and difficult conditions on a daily basis. Leader of the programme, Matt Kerton, has been working at HIOWAA for two years and comments: “There is nothing that can prepare us for what we come up against every day and we regularly attend life-changing incidents that stay with us long after our shift finishes.”

An anonymous monthly survey will offer individuals from HIOWAA’s Critical Care Team the opportunity to monitor and review their psychological health and wellbeing and encourage team members to talk freely about how they are feeling.

The website provides further advice on improving and enhancing personal wellbeing based on the individual’s unique results from the survey. HIOWAA Specialist Critical Care Paramedic, Tom Nickisson-Richards, states:

“To have a tangible score by which you can track your own mental health and wellbeing is really, really helpful.”

Supplementary help is available to those who wish to talk to a mental health professional about the challenging experiences they have faced within their job role. Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect individuals who work within air ambulance teams at any stage of their careers. This can be as a result of witnessing traumatic events and attending to patients under extremely stressful circumstances. Specialist Critical Care Paramedic, Nicola Hawkes, explains:

“We attend people on potentially the worst day of their lives, and you do think about that incident afterwards. Some people aren’t returning home or when they are returning home, their lives are ultimately altered forever.”

The objective of the programme is to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health and provide support to those who need it within the HIOWAA Critical Care Team. Activities and team events will also play an important part in the programme, to encourage team building and allow time for team members to process and recover from difficult events.

Alex Lochrane, Chief Executive Officer, comments:

“The team at HIOWAA put themselves out there every day and face situations that are unimaginable to us. I am really proud that we can now offer them a platform to seek support and advice, should they need it and I hope others will follow our example.”