DR Ryan Perry could be forgiven for putting his feet up after a long, draining shift at Colchester Hospital.

After the rigours of another day, no-one could blame him for relaxing, unwinding and switching off in his well-earned downtime.

Instead, Ryan, an emergency medicine and intensive care doctor, volunteers for the BASICS (British Association for Intensive Care) Essex charity.

Doctors and critical care paramedics with specialist skills give up their time to attend the most seriously ill and injured patients.

They can be at a patient’s side in minutes, day or night, to provide immediate pre-hospital medical care.

Like the air ambulance, they can offer skills and equipment above and beyond what you’d find on a land ambulance.

Unlike the air ambulance crews, however, they are not paid and don’t have a helicopter.

Because they attend incidents close to where they live, they can be first at the scene.

“We’re there to help paramedic ambulance crews with scenarios that are quite difficult,” said 31-year-old Ryan, who lives in Lawford.

“Cases we’re called to include complex traumas and paediatric cardiac arrests and we can provide that next level of support.

“Once we’ve stabilised patients and made it safe to transfer them, we sometimes hand them over to the ambulance crew.

“But if they need support on route we can accompany them to hospital.

“For things like major traumas, that means taking them to the Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel. I have children, aged one and four, and a fairly busy life as a registrar but I try to volunteer for four shifts a month, one evening a week.”

So why would someone who has a busy day job volunteer his services in what others would see as his well-deserved downtime?

“It’s a fantastic charity and the team is incredible”, said Ryan.

“It involves people from all over the county who are interested in providing really good quality care to people in their community.

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“It’s not going to be needed for everyone but for some patients it can make a major difference.

“When it gets dark, the air ambulance can’t fly so pre-hospital care is less available and we can really make a difference.

“Pre-hospital care is effectively bringing the hospital to people who need it.

“Rather than people being put in the back of an ambulance for a half-hour journey to hospital and perhaps deteriorating on the way, they can receive hospital care at the roadside, in their kitchen or wherever.”

Help is at hand - volunteers like Dr Ryan Perry give up their time to attend the most seriously ill and injured patients, as part of their work with the BASICS Essex charity

Help is at hand - volunteers like Dr Ryan Perry give up their time to attend the most seriously ill and injured patients, as part of their work with the BASICS Essex charity

Ryan says volunteering means that, unlike his day job, he can find himself saving lives anywhere. “Normally I’m in a warm, well-lit ward or intensive care unit with all the equipment I need and lots of colleagues to turn to for advice,” he said.

“I can get a CT scan done in a few minutes.”

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“In this role we’re limited to the specialist equipment we carry in the vehicle and we’re working in different and challenging environments.

“We could be at a roadside or ten storeys up in a flat with a patient who’s critically ill, having to work out how to treat them, stabilise them and get them down all those stairs.

“When we have to go into people’s homes it can be emotional if you have other family members around and we have to manage that.

“Often we have to deal with police and paramedics we’ve never met before.

“You quickly have to gain their trust and lead the situation.

“In a hospital you may have worked with the same team for years and they already know what you’re capable of.

“You have to be able to grasp what’s going on very quickly and get a plan of action that’s safe and work out what you’re doing very quickly.”

By his own admission, Ryan has taken an unusual route in carving out a medical career.

There was nothing in his background to suggest he would go down this particular road but he is passionate about both roles - his day job and volunteering.

He trained in Brighton and Devon and has been working in the East of England for the past six years, most recently at Colchester Hospital.

He says working there during the pandemic has been challenging but rewarding.

He said: “My mum and dad owned a fish and chip shop, so medicine wasn’t on the agenda.

“At 14, I thought ‘I want to do this’ and I’m glad I did, because I absolutely love it.

“The team work at the hospital has been phenomenal and we’ve all got through it.

“It has made us a lot stronger and everyone realises what they can deal with. The NHS has been fantastic.”

n BASICS Essex, which celebrates ten years as a charity this month, survives on a shoestring budget. To find out more about its great work in the community, visit basicsessex.org.uk.