AN initiative launched to help ambulance service staff with health issues connected to the job is celebrating its two year anniversary this December.

The Staying Well Service (SWS) provides support for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust's (SWASFT) 5,000 staff, of whom many are regularly exposed to traumatic incidents through the nature of the emergency life-saving work they do.

SWASFT executive medical director Dr Andy Smith said: "We take the health and wellbeing of our workforce extremely seriously.Our staff are our greatest and most valuable part of our service. We could not deliver our services without them and we invest a great deal in making sure our staff are safe and supported.

"The nature of their work means they are much more likely to encounter challenging and distressing situations than people in other occupations and we need to ensure that we provide them with a comprehensive range of support mechanisms."

Many staff members have visited the SWS for social, emotional or work-related issues. Around one third of referrals received have been for physiotherapy.

The SWS is provided alongside other support programmes already available to staff -such as debriefings following challenging incidents.

Staff can access the service for issues stemming from their personal lives, as well as work situations which are adversely affecting them.

Dr Smith said: "I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our supporters, including the Samaritans and PTSD UK.

"The expertise and support they provide us is invaluable and no doubt make a real difference to individuals who need to access the services on offer.

"Our staff carry out a fantastic job in serving their local communities."

Anyone accessing SWS can be assured their situation will be dealt with sensitively and in the strictest confidence, ambulance bosses say.

Accessible via phone or email, the service delivers a range of emergency and urgent care services on a 24-hour basis.