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Respected Pembrokeshire ambulance stalwart retires

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A man who has given 36 years of loyal service to ambulance provision in Wales has today worked his last shift.

After leaving school at just 14-years-old and joining the Army at 15, Rob Jeffery, who also turns 66 today, started out in the ambulance service almost by accident.

Rob, a married father-of-three from Pembroke, said: “I was walking down the street past the job centre one day and there was a job advertised – Ambulance Driver, £69 per week, military experience advantageous – I walked in and that was that really.

“To show you how far we’ve come, when I met the station master on my first day, he sent me down to a local shop to buy three white shirts and two pairs of black trousers from my own money as my uniform and then I was packed off to Pelsall, Walsall for my course.

“I still don’t think I’ve been paid for that,” he jested.

When the role of what we now know as a paramedic was introduced in 1991, Rob was one of the first new paramedics in Pembrokeshire, and it is a move he feels was pivotal for the ambulance service.

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“That was a big change in how we were viewed and definitely improved the way we were seen by the wider NHS.

“When I first started we used to do stand-by shifts where you’d work 8am – 4pm and then take your ambulance home with you for the last four hours.

“Doing away with that was another significant change for us – you just couldn’t cope with that nowadays,” he said.

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Much of Rob’s career has involved supporting and managing ambulance staff across west Wales in roles such as Personnel Officer, Staff Officer and Locality Officer, roles that he has enjoyed every second of.

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Speaking of the ethos that has brought him success and won respect of his peers, he said: “I always remind staff that it is a very privileged job we hold.

“We arrive into people’s lives at what could be there most vulnerable moment, and we’re only there for a short time.

“What to the member of staff may be just another job could be the most critical and life-changing moment for that patient and their family.

“It’s important to remember that privilege.

“I’ve always tried to be fair and consistent and have an open door policy and take the time to listen to people.

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“It’ll be the one thing I’ll miss the most.”

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Colleagues of Rob’s have come forward with kind words full of praise.

Huw Phillips, the Trust’s National Delivery Manager, said: “I am proud to have had him as my line manager, my mentor and most of all my friend for the whole of my career.

“I have always admired the way he manages to find time for everyone, regardless how pressured his own time is.

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“He will be a huge loss to the service, but deserves a long and happy retirement.”

Sonia Thompson, Interim Assistant Director of Operations Ambulance Response, said: “Rob has played a significant role, dedicating his NHS career to supporting staff and patients.

“His commitment to the service needs no words and I for one, have an enormous amount to thank him for in the various roles I have occupied over the years.

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside Rob and he will be sorely missed in the Operations team.

“Rob, I wish you all the best for a happy, healthy and very well deserved retirement.”

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Rob plans to keep busy and has a few ideas of how he will begin to spend his well-earned retirement.

“It’s going to be strange waking up on Tuesday morning,” he said.

“I’m too active to get the pipe and slippers out.

“My daughter has a fish shop in Tenby and my son-in-law has a lobster boat and a net fishing boat so I’ll be doing some work with them.

“Around 5am on a summer’s morning around the back of Caldey Island pulling lobster pots is hard work, but it’s absolutely stunning.

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“I’m also looking at doing some vaccination work in the autumn when the booster programme starts and I’ll looking into doing some other charitable work too.”

For the Jeffery family, ambulance work is in the blood as Rob’s son Alex has recently qualified as a paramedic and his wife Paula is a Consultant Paramedic.

(Lead image: Welsh Ambulance Service Trust)

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