From pub to Morecambe health hub

Gary Bartholomew of Trust Medical in one of its ambulances. Photo by Neil Cross.
Gary Bartholomew of Trust Medical in one of its ambulances. Photo by Neil Cross.

Many Morecambrians will have enjoyed a night or two in the building formerly known as Charlestons, the Carleton Rooms and Fred’s on the Ball.

Walk through its doors today and you would get quite a shock because it looks very different.

Michael Crowther in the control room.

Michael Crowther in the control room.

The iconic former nightspot is now home to one of the fastest rising and caring businesses in the town, with an ambulance control room at its heart instead of a bar.

Trust Medical was set up by founder and chairman Abe Elkinson after a family tragedy.

The company then became a pioneer in bringing life-saving treatment for heart attack victims to the workplace and is now one of the leading private ambulance firms in the country.

“My father passed away of a sudden cardiac arrest and it took 22 minutes for the ambulance to arrive,” said Abe, speaking from his top floor office overlooking Morecambe seafront.

The Trust Medical team.

The Trust Medical team.

“The average response time in the UK is eight minutes.

“For every minute that a cardiac arrest patient doesn’t receive specalist treatment the chances of survival decrease by 10 per cent. After 10 minutes there is virtually no chance of survival.

“So money was never a driver for me, making a difference was a driver.”

After launching in 2004, Trust Medical pioneered the idea of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) being available in out of hospital locations.

AEDs, which shock the heart back into rhythm, are now far more common throughout the UK in shopping centres, hotels and private business premises.

Trust Medical still continues to champion their use and offers training in how to operate them.

“It was sparked by a phone call from a colleague in America, who rang me at 5.30am from New York,” said Abe.

“He’d been into a McDonald’s in New York and there was a defibrillator on the wall. They are mandatory in all public buildings in the States. That led to a lightbulb moment.

“We provided equipment and training for Barclays, kitted their corporate HQ out in Canary Wharf, the Ministry of Defence, supplying some big big companies. That’s where we started.

“Within the first 18 months to two years we had already saved a life.”

In 2007, Abe sent out an internet message looking for help with some training.

Craig Pyne answered the call and today, Abe and Morecambe man Craig, now Trust Medical’s managing director, work together running the business.

Trust Medical has expanded massively over the past few years. It started with two employees and now has more than 200, and is still recruiting.

The firm now has five main medically-themed services.

They deliver training courses for clients including first aid, fire safety and health and safety in the workplace; have a range of occupational health services including employment medicals; provide first aid supplies; deliver event medical cover for the likes of Warton Stock Car Club and Morecambe FC, and the main aspect of the business is their private ambulance service.

Their fleet of around 70 ambulances deal with 150,000 journeys and transfers a year. Although they do not deal with 999 calls as this is the job of the emergency services, they take private patients to hospital all over the country and also transport blood and organs.

They now have two ambulance bases on White Lund and have opened new centres in Burton-on-Trent and 
Wakefield.

And last year they expanded into the whole of their Marine Road Central building – the company’s head office – after what Abe described as “a significant investment”.

The ground floor, well known as the former Charlestons and most recently home to the Northern 
Relics antiques shop, has been transformed into a modern reception area with adjoining offices.

Upstairs the ambulance control room sends out vehicles to patients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Andrew Short, compliance lead (clinical) for Trust Medical said: “The majority of work is taking patients from A to B.

“They have specific medical needs but are in a stable condition. Our staff are trained to deal with whatever is required.

“The crews find it immensely satisfying. The older generation are always very grateful and like to tell us stories.”

Speaking to members of staff, it’s clear how proud they are to work for Trust Medical.

Some come from an NHS background and say they prefer working for a private company than the health service.

“The difference in making the jump into private is phenomenal,” said Claire Malkin, compliance lead (learning and development) and former paramedic.

“I think staff are more valued.”

This is highlighted by the company’s ethos, summed up by a flowchart which shows ambulance crew as the most important staff, and the management team as the least.

As Abe Elkinson says: “We’re all about putting people first. And our number one priority is our patients.”