South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), which covers a geographical area of 3,600 square miles across the south-east including Kent, is celebrating 50 years since the birth of the UK paramedic profession.

It was March 1971 when the first ‘ambulance men’, who had been selected for additional training with renowned cardiologist Professor Douglas Chamberlain, began to respond to patients in the Brighton area equipped with the first ambulance defibrillators.

The six men, who had attended lectures by then Dr Chamberlain, and whose additional skills included being taught to interpret ECGs and administer particular drugs for cardiac emergencies, paved the way for the development and formalisation of the profession over the next decade and beyond.

Robin Friday, (above left), of The Manor of Bexley Mark and Royal Ark Mariner Lodges is the only one of the original six individuals still alive. He now lives in Kent having retired from SECAmb in 2012 and proudly recalls being selected for the additional training.

He said: “I look back fondly on my 50-year career in the ambulance service. I am very proud to have been one of the original six to undergo the additional training under Professor Chamberlain. This undoubtedly was a very important early step towards the ambulance service developing into the service it is today. We were, for the first time, bringing far more expert care to patients prior to their arrival at hospital.”

Professor Chamberlain said: “The profession has of course come a long way in 50 years but I am very proud of the first individuals and this work I and my colleagues did to progress the role the ambulance service plays in pre-hospital care.”

SECAmb Chief Executive Philip Astle added: “I would like to pay tribute to Professor Chamberlain and his clinical colleagues as well as Robin and his fellow members of staff. Their decision to be part of this initial innovation was vital in moving the ambulance service towards being more actively involved in pre-hospital care so important in improving patient outcomes.”