DEVON LIFESAVERS FOR 30 YEARS

Updated: Apr 5


BASICS Devon is celebrating 30 years since PLIMS (Plymouth Immediate Medical Support) and TACTICS (Tamar and Torridge Immediate Care Scheme) was founded which became BASICS Devon. Originally there was also a division called Tameds that covered the North of the City. BASICS Devon now covers the whole of county.


This March marks the 30-year Anniversary for the Devon BASICS Schemes which officially registered as a charity, BASICS Devon in 1992.



One of the earliest advocates of Immediate Care was Dr Ken Easton. In 1949 he began emergency roadside care along a 15 mile stretch of the A1 in North Yorkshire. It worked well and so he began to tour the country, introducing many doctors to the new concept.


The lifesaving schemes gradually became established throughout Britain, in 1977 a nationwide organization the British Association for Immediate Care (BASICS) was established. BASICS Schemes operate across the United Kingdom with 31 schemes, all entirely voluntary.


The journey for Devon began in 1991, a group of trauma-trained GP’s and accident and emergency consultants decided to form a BASICS team in Plymouth. PLIMS (Plymouth Immediate Medical Support) went operational with the full support of the Ambulance service, the police and Fire Brigade and had amazing support from Plymouth Rotary and Peter Vosper to provide an additional resource to the ambulance service. Their aim was to provide optimum standard of care and treatment in emergency circumstances.


The founders were Dr Tony Golding-Cook and Dr Tristan Evely of PLIMS and Dr David Hillebrandt and Dr Stephen Myers of TACTICS. In the early days the doctors had to buy all their own kit and pay for their own prehospital medical care training. Back in 1991 Dr Golding-Cook recalled using surgery curtains as PPE!


Dr Tristan Evely & Dr Anthony Golding-Cook from 1991 to 2022 - Archive Images courtesy of The Herald, Plymouth

PLIMS callout figures recorded back at a meeting in November 1994 were 18 Medical emergencies, cardiac arrests being the highest at 6 and trauma emergencies recorded at 19 which involved 7 pedestrians, 5 cars, 4 bicycle/motorbike and 3 leisure incidents, back then most calls in any one night were 3.


Some of the BASICS Devon volunteers reflect on their time with the scheme. Dr Anthony Golding-Cook, one of the founding members of what was PLIMS, stepped down for a few years but has now returned to the scheme with thanks to funding from support of the public, NHS Charities Together and Plymouth Hospitals Charity.


Dr Antony Golding-Cook said “I always had an interest in prehospital emergency care and spent time with ambulance crews getting work experience in the late 1970’s as a Venture Scout! I attended BASICS lectures and conferences as a medical student. Just three days after qualifying, I stopped at a serious Road Traffic Collision (RTC) and felt very underprepared.”


“Then as junior hospital doctor on my 4th day of the job in Accident and Emergency another very serious RTC happened with 3 cars, lots of trapped and critically ill patients. The Consultant had been called to scene, so I was alone to deal with them when they started to arrive in resus at the hospital. I realized the importance of having dedicated pre-hospital doctors who could be mobilized to serious trauma at the scene, without depleting hospital medical resources.”


“Even with the personal expense, it felt like we were doing the right thing at a time when the paramedic role was only just emerging in the UK and few crews could give iv drugs / fluids or intubate.”


PLIMS Responders - Left to Right Dr John Brumby, Dr Andrew Potter, Dr Anthony Golding-Cook, Dr Tristan Evely - Image courtesy of The Herald, Plymouth

“I have never been more positive about the scheme as I am now, so much has changed, all for the better. The public (and emergency services) are much more aware of what a BASICS doctor is - and what tools and skills we can bring. We work closely with our amazing paramedic colleagues to assist and, when necessary, add an additional tier of care using advanced drugs and techniques. We have always wanted to work alongside other emergency crews, they continue to be very supportive.”


“I hope that the rise in profile and funding will be maintained, and we can continue to be an integral part of the emergency response to time critical trauma and medical patients in the future. I feel proud and honoured to draw alongside and help people during their darkest day ever. It’s a real privilege to serve my local community when every second counts.”


Dr David Hillebrandt a long serving volunteer based in Holsworthy, helped to form TACTICS and shared his memories, “From my first day at university I knew I wanted to be a rural General Practitioner. As a medical student in London in 1976 I was in a busy A&E department the day an Irish bomb went off at the Ideal Home Exhibition and this experience simply increased my interest in Prehospital care.

Dr David Hillebrandt founder of TACTICS in 2003 & continues to respond for BASICS Devon

When I settled in General Practice in 1986 GPs prided themselves in offering emergency services in their area and I still remember attending my first local car accident as part of a routine working day.


“Soon the Tamar and Torridge Immediate Care Scheme (TACTICS) evolved and at one time had five active members covering North Devon. We equipped ourselves from the proceeds of raids on ambulance stations or A&E departments and if it was not available, we improvised.”


“Dr Lynette Bowden another volunteer used to respond in the Hartland area in her Fiat 500. In those days paramedics were an emerging concept but those of us who had worked as junior doctors in A&E departments had a range of useful basic clinical skills such as airway management, intra venous drug and fluid administration, insertion of chest drains and splinting. We arrived with drugs for pain relief and to initiate treatment.”


“Our GP practice in Holsworthy offered early pre-hospital thrombolysis for patients having a heart attack which the on-call doctor carried together with the practice defibrillator. Day or night it was normal for a rural GP to attend most emergencies before calling for ambulance assistance.”


“Over the years things became more formalized. We had a memorandum of understanding with South West Ambulance Services and were given a radio. "


PLIMS and TACTICS amalgamated to form BASICS Devon to offer a more unified service with centralized fundraising giving more opportunity for training and for the supply of medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). With an increasing paramedic skillset, we still bring the added value of years of experience, and an ability to take a long-term overall view to any incident. I find I am taking a more advisory role at an incident but pride myself in keeping my practical skills up to date for the 40% of incidents, where I am the first medical provider on scene in our rural corner of Devon.”


“I am keen for BASICS Devon to recruit more doctors to ensure a future service. It involves some commitment, a willingness to train and a willingness to work with no financial reward. But one cannot put a value on the boost to one’s professional confidence to deal with acute medicine and trauma, to the satisfaction of a patient’s care being enhanced and the feeling of being part of a valuable team of doctors, ambulance staff and the police and fire services. As I get older, I have a vested interest in ensuring I can get the care I feel should be available to all, especially in rural areas a long way from the nearest district general hospital.”


BASICS Devon wants to continue to expand their team of volunteer doctors and work with the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust to support paramedic and nurse responders.


The scheme covers one of the most rural counties in the country with remote communities. BASICS Devon rural responders want to stay fully prepared to assist with all emergency call outs across Devon no matter the weather. This enables them to reach all remote villages with ease and assurance, safely and quickly, and in most cases enable them to arrive first on the scene before the ambulance.



In 2021, BASICS Devon attended 454 callouts, 154 of which were at night, and arrived first on the scene at 32%. They are continuing to work hard responding on the frontline for the people of Devon, assisting other local emergency services. So far this year the doctors have responded to 58 callouts, first on the scene at 29.


The team at BASICS Devon want to say thank you to all of the supporters from the early days of those that donated and volunteered to help create PLIMS and TACTICS. Thanks to those that continue to help to make it this far in saving lives across Devon. It is especially important to show such appreciation, as in the last few years it has been such a testing and challenging time for so many.


Throughout this year BASICS Devon will be offering people to get involved with celebrating their 30th Anniversary, you could try a run, walk, cycle, or swim for 30 miles or for 30 minutes. Bake 30 cakes and sell them at 30p each! All fundraising ideas are fantastic, and donations will be gratefully received to help keep the volunteer immediate care doctors on the road to respond to save lives.


BASICS Devon is planning a road trip throughout the year in their new rapid response vehicle across the region to teach vital lifesaving skills, get in touch if you would like the team to visit your community to be put on the map for this lifesaving voyage! And keep your eyes open and let us know if you spot them out and about.


If you would like to get involved or donate to BASICS Devon, please visit www.basics-devon.org.uk or call 01752 936299




Interviews with the doctors on request, please call Amie Bull on 01752 936299


Please note and reference that the Archive Images are courtesy of The Herald, Plymouth


Notes to Editor


About BASICS Devon

BASICS Devon is a network of 12 emergency volunteer doctors providing immediate access to specialist medical care at the scene of an accident or illness. Making themselves available around the clock throughout the year, responding to incidents at the request of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. The charity relies solely on donations.


BASICS Devon doctors aim to provide a fast response to incidents in rural areas and use their extensive skills to support patient care.


BASICS HQ

For further information about the British Association for Immediate Care national scheme visit https://www.basics.org.uk/brief-history-basics/


For further information, to donate or get involved please visit: www.basics-devon.org.uk

Contact Amie Bull, Fundraising Manager amie.bull@basics-devon.org.uk T: 01752 936299

For further information please visit: www.basics-devon.org.uk


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