In our July News pages we reported on the launch of GB1NHS, a permanent amateur radio station dedicated to promoting, through the medium of amateur radio, NHS initiatives that lead to patients receiving excellent care, faster recovery and living longer healthier lives. This month, as promised, we have more on GB1NHS, by way of an interview with the man who helped to make it happen, Paul Devlin G1SMP.
PW: Paul, thanks for taking the time to tell us more about this interesting initiative. First, can you tell our readers how GB1NHS came about?
I asked if they were familiar with amateur radio and suggested that the hobby could significantly help promote the #EndPJparalysis initiative through holding special events and working alongside hospital radio stations. The link to hospital radio was the brilliant idea of Pete Sipple, licensed radio amateur, member of Essex Ham and Chairman of Southend Hospital Radio Station. Pete and Brian were overwhelmed with the idea and thanks to their support GB1NHS is here today.
PW: We covered the launch at the RSGB’s National Radio Centre at Bletchley Park but where will GB1NHS be located in future and when (and on what bands) might we expect to find the station on the air?
G1SMP: We are incredibly grateful to you for covering our launch Don. Special thanks also go to Ian Shepherd RSGB Chairman, Steve Thomas RSGB General Manager and Martyn Baker RSGB National Radio Centre Coordinator for allowing us to host our launch at the NRC. Currently we don’t have a permanent base within NHS premises so the station is based at my home address in Lichfield South Staffordshire. Going forward though I would like to have a base within a local hospital or health centre within reasonable distance to my home. This is for practical reasons as much of the on air time will be done out of normal working hours. We will also be operating from NHS, Department of Health and Defence Medical Services locations for special events. We plan to be operating on HF, VHF and UHF bands. We are currently seeking sponsorship to help us build up our equipment.
PW: I understand that this is the first time there has been a specific link between amateur radio and the NHS (and on the NHS’s 70th anniversary too). You obviously believe there will be mutual benefits. Can you tell us what they might be?
G1SMP: That’s correct Don. This is a truly historic event for the NHS. We are very proud to have launched GB1NHS during the NHS 70th anniversary celebrations. We believe that amateur radio can significantly increase the capability of the NHS to reach communities both nationally and internationally. The NHS has some fantastic initiatives such as #EndPJparalysis and #TheLast1000Days, all geared to improving the lives of our communities. But to get the best from these initiatives we need to get the ideas into the hands of as many people as possible by creating social movements. I see amateur radio as one of the most successful social movements in the world. As such, I believe that the hobby lends itself perfectly to supporting the promotion of key NHS initiatives, especially when we link up with hospital radio stations during special events. In summarising the benefits, I think the first key benefit is the means to help the NHS to increase focus and boost social movements on NHS wide initiatives. Secondly I believe that using amateur radio routinely across the NHS has the ability to support emergency preparedness and strengthen links with RAYNET. Thirdly I believe that amateur radio has a role to play in tackling key public health issues. These include loneliness, isolation, social inclusion and emotional wellbeing. I believe that the fellowship found within amateur radio clubs along with the technical aspect of the hobby can provide a very real benefit to public health nationally. We would like to do some research around testing this concept out in future. Finely I hope that using amateur radio nationally across the NHS will raise awareness of the hobby and attract new people into it. This could include members of staff, patients, carers, service users and even their families. We have already seen a growing interest in the hobby amongst my colleagues at NHS Improvement since the launch of GB1NHS.
PW: The NHS is the largest employer in the UK. It seems surprising that amateur radio hasn’t featured before. Are you now drawing in other radio amateurs who work within the NHS – there must surely be plenty of them!
G1SMP: Absolutely Don. I’m aware that temporary special events stations have been operated in support of the NSH before but you’re correct, amateur radio has never featured as a national initiative operated from within the NHS before. Yes you would hope that amongst some of our 1.5 million colleagues we would have a few radio amateurs. One of our objectives is to find out how many licensed radio amateurs and short wave listeners work within the NHS family. This includes staff from NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and the Department of Health. We have asked colleagues to get in touch either via our website www.GB1NHS.net, Twitter @GB1NHS or emailing me directly email@example.com
PW: We have Summits on the Air, Churches and Chapels on the Air and many more. Can we expect to see Hospitals and Health Centres on the Air?
G1SMP: That’s a great idea Don and yes; we would love to run an annual Hospitals and Health Centres on the Air event. We will be running our first national event in September this year. Our colleagues at Essex Ham have kindly offered to help us run a test event in the near future. This will help us to produce a guidance document for clubs helping them to operate safely on healthcare premises.
PW: Without wanting to run before you can walk, do you see GB1NHS as being the forerunner of other links between amateur radio and health services, not only in the UK but abroad?
G1SMP: We do. We plan to make formal connections and work in partnership with national health organisations and radio societies across the world. Some of these connections have already been formed thanks to Heather Parsons RSGB Communications Manager. This will include the World Health Organisation, International Red Cross and Defence Medical Services.
PW: We are all aware that amateur radio can be a lifeline for folk who are housebound for whatever reason. RAIBC does great work with such people (including, if I might be so bold, as recording PW each month for amateurs who are sight-impaired). Will you be linking up with groups such as RAIBC to work with people who are disabled but not necessarily within the NHS system, other than as occasional users?
G1SMP: Absolutely Don. RAIBC is an example to public health systems across the world of how amateur radio can integrate with communities and support emotional health and wellbeing. I would see RAIBC as being a natural partner for GB1NHS going forward and we are really excited about working with them. We would also welcome the opportunity to link up with any similar groups.
PW: Is there anything else you want to share with us about your current activities or future plans for GB1NHS?
G1SMP: We are genuinely excited about the future Don. We are looking forward to embedding amateur radio within the routine work of the NHS at a national level. At present our key priorities are to establish links with national amateur radio and public health organisations across the world. We are also in the process of linking up with all amateur radio clubs across the UK. We would be interested to see how many of them would like to take part in our Hospitals and Health Centres on the air event 2018. Following our UK event we will be looking to organise international Hospitals and Health Centres on the air. We hope that this will be done in association with the International Red Cross community. At present however we are on a mission to help get one million hospital patients up, dressed and moving about by promoting #EndPJparalysis. Amateur radio has never had a greater opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people by promoting the #EndPJparalysis 70-day Challenge. In terms of future initiatives, we would like to hear from the amateur community about how they feel we can best use GB1NHS. We would love to hear ideas from individual amateurs, clubs and national bodies as to how we can use amateur radio to promote the health and wellbeing of our communities.
PW: Finally, and with thanks for your time, where are readers able to follow developments or find out more, for example on social media or via a website?
G1SMP: We are very grateful for the opportunity to appear in PW Don many thanks indeed for that. Most of our developments and updates will be via our Twitter page @GB1NHS. This is where we will publish scheduled on air activities and interact daily with anyone who wants to get in touch with us. We also have a fantastic YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/ECIST1 where we have a series of short videos from our events. Readers can also find out more about us at www.GB1NHS.net. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just before I sign off could I thank Ofcom’s Spectrum Licensing Team for all their advice and support in helping us get our licence and very special call sign GB1NHS. Could I also thank Pete Sipple from Essex Ham along with my colleagues Stephan Natawidjaja and Nick Holding for working tirelessly at our launch event and subsequently to produce our radio interviews, videos and photos. Finally can I thank Mr Roy Lilley, health policy analyst, broadcaster and writer for attending our launch event. He transformed our day into an unforgettable occasion.