IN MEMORIAM: DECLAN BRYAN DOMINIC HENEGHAN (1965-2018)
It is with great sadness that staff at UNISON heard of the sudden and untimely death of Declan Heneghan on 28 November 2018. UNISON and Ambulance Today have worked together closely for many years updating ambulance staff across the sector on important and interesting issues. Whilst UNISON staff may have changed over the years the consistent dedication of Dec has kept this important relationship working. It is true to say that Dec knew everyone in ambulance circles and everyone knew Dec. Bringing people together and ensuring a story or an opportunity was not missed was Dec’s expertise. He knew that ambulance services needed to change and modernise and kept abreast of developments around the world making Ambulance Today the industry publication of choice. He is a credit to the profession, and his enthusiasm and professionalism will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Alan Lofthouse National Officer UNISON Health Group
The tragic news of Declan’s sudden and utterly unexpected death has come as a terrible shock to all of those in the College of Paramedics who either knew him or were aware of his work and the publication that he initiated and edited; Ambulance Today. Declan was a tireless advocate for paramedics and all those who serve the public within both the public and private ambulance sectors. He was also a very energetic man, brimming with ideas and constantly seeking out opportunities to promote good practice, to report on new ideas and innovations, and to generally help communication throughout the ambulance industry. The challenges that he set himself involved unstinting commitment, many long hours of work and a huge investment of his time, expertise and personality, coupled with great skill at bringing people together and making things happen. His approach always reflected his inherent kindness, and his even-handed, positive and incredibly persuasive nature. He could talk round any individual, no matter how reluctant, into helping his cause of getting positive messages across to his audience. He was by nature a man with a generosity of spirit and a desire to both learn 6Today | Winter 2018 everything he could about the ambulance industry and to see it improve. His method was to go out, find, and connect individuals in order to produce positive results. As a true internationalist he set out to bring stories of ambulances services in Europe and beyond to his readers, drawing comparisons and helping readers to understand what lay beyond their own experience. In every sense, journalistically, as a friend, leader, supporter and all-round positive influencer, Declan made an important contribution and positive impact on all of those he came in contact with. His rare talents enriched many people’s lives and he will be very much missed.
Professor Andy Newton; QAM, FCPara, PhD Immediate Past Chair College of Paramedics
GOODBYE DECLAN AND REST IN PEACE When God created telephones he must have had Declan Heneghan in mind. For I never knew a man more adept at the art of telephone persuasion than Dec. You could guarantee that you’d need to set at least an hour aside when you saw his name flashing up on your screen but at the end of the call you would always feel like you’d had a really good chat with an old mate, while simultaneously having agreed to various requests that you’d tried desperately hard to avoid during the call. But that was Dec’s charm and his early death, at the age of just 53, is sad for so many reasons but most of all for Dec himself. Of course we will all miss chatting away to a man who had more interests and views over breakfast than most people have in a year. But to me, he was a man still packed with great ambition for his small publishing empire and the desire to rise above the same humble beginnings that I recognised myself, to be a success and to leave a legacy behind for his family. While the legacy is still there in its many forms, it is a genuine travesty that he has been halted in his tracks by a miserable cardiac arrest. (And how ironic is that, by the way, for a man who spent most of his time talking to people about defibrillators?) It is a sad fact for many working in the ambulance service that we encounter the thin line between life and death on a daily basis – whether treating patients or reporting on it – but it never gets easier to hear that somebody has been taken before their natural time.
I first got to know Declan when I arrived at the former Ambulance Service Association (ASA) in London to help out with their magazine, Ambulance Today. I think Dec was worried that I had designs on his own empire and I received the first of many long phone calls that were to occur in the following twelve years, this one perhaps not quite as friendly as the rest. When he was satisfied that I had no desire at all to publish a national magazine in competition with his own, we became firm friends and remained so right up until his death. It was Declan who introduced me to his close mate, the Falklands veteran Simon Weston, who he brought as a VIP guest to an early Ambition event that I staged in Liverpool on behalf of the Department of Health’s Hazardous Area Response Team programme. What a night that turned out to be, including a rather tipsy Kate Adie who quickly became a big fan of Dec. At his core though, Dec was a vociferous supporter of the ambulance service and particularly of the men and women who worked on the front line. His commitment to strong relationships with unions and staff-side meant he regularly published articles that less independent media may have been more hesitant to run. He was also committed to helping the UK ambulance service learn from the positive work of emergency medical services from around the world, while simultaneously sharing UK good practice abroad. His magazine and website have become a genuinely interesting central point of focus for international pre-hospital care and the legacy of contacts Dec leaves behind – both within ambulance services and among hundreds of suppliers – is considerable.
Declan was a genuine and down-to-earth man who worked hard to achieve what he had. He was eminently generous and I am saddened that I never got around to taking up his offer of visiting his secret Greek hideaway – the place where I assumed he went to relax and switch his phones off. Not a bit of it! The Liverpool office was merely recreated in a warmer climate and the phone calls and wheeling and dealing continued unabated. And that is how I will choose to remember Dec. In my mind’s eye, I can see him in his personal Greek paradise, smiling, enjoying the sun, a drink, a cigarette and pacing the patio by the pool, mobile phone clamped to the side of his head chattering away, formulating his next big plans. So rest in peace Dec, you have certainly earned it and you will be missed by many including me.
Communications Consultant – Association of Ambulance Chief Executives
Stakeholder Engagement Lead – National Ambulance Resilience Unit
Managing Director – Kognitive Ltd
The Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA), representing ambulance services in Australia and New Zealand, extend our condolences to Declan’s family and his colleagues at Ambulance Today. We hope the magazine and allied initiatives supporting the pre-hospital sector across the world will continue as an outstanding legacy in Declan’s name. CAA’s member services have played a united and leading role in raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest, which takes the lives of too many people across the world every day. We dedicate our contribution in this edition of Ambulance Today to Declan.
The Council of Ambulance Authorities
I am privileged to have been given this opportunity to publicly remember Declan, or Dec as I knew him. I first met Dec whilst working as an ambulance technician in Mersey Metropolitan Ambulance Service in the 1980’s. I recall he was writing an article on the ambulance service and how busy it was over the festive period. I remember thinking “what a very down to earth
bloke and a true scouser”. Over the years I followed his editorials and we met-up on numerous occasions at AMBEX in Harrogate, both professionally and socially. There was just something special about this guy who was not only able to speak on a level to chief officers of all emergency services, but also to the ‘rank and file’ with a true empathy about their roles. Dec was admired and trusted by all that I came into contact with during my career- I can honestly say that I have never heard a cross word said against him. Dec always had his finger on the pulse of what was happening within the ambulance service and consistently demonstrated an empathy with whatever was currently affecting those working within the service. He was a voice for the industry- that many not only listened to but more importantly heard, and we often spoke about the improvements to the service not only in the UK but further afield. Dec was a true professional, workaholic and a brilliant editor who just knew how to put things down in print that made an impact. I was fortunate to have published a few papers in the Ambulance Today publication and this is where I felt they were truly meant to be. Dec became a friend and someone I felt at ease with over a pint; I was always made to feel welcome in his home for a brew (or something stronger if I wasn’t driving). Dec was very supportive of both me and my family- always wanting to know how they were. I extend my deepest, heartfelt sympathy to Joe and Isaac for their loss, and I feel we have all lost a true friend, a brilliant colleague and a very passionate supporter of the ambulance service. It has been an honour to have known Dec. God bless and Rest in Peace mate.
Medical Rescue Ltd.
DECLAN I was profoundly saddened and shocked to hear of the death of Declan. It was particularly hurtful as I hadn’t spoken to him for a while and kept meaning to call as he hadn’t replied to any of my recent text messages. I have known Declan for around 10 years, but such was his enormous personality I
felt as if I had known him for far, far longer. Declan had an immediate and positive impact on me. One of the first things you noticed about him was his passion for the ambulance service and the treatment of its staff both in the UK and abroad. His passion was infectious and before you knew it you found yourself sharing that passion too. He put his heart and soul into producing Ambulance Today magazine promoting all that was good within the service and highlighting anything that was wrong or could be carried out better. He was especially concerned about the treatment of ambulance staff but was also anxious to seek out and highlight anything that could improve the service, be it better vehicles, systems or processes. The other thing you noticed about Declan was the deep and abiding love he had for his sons. He always spoke about Joe and Isaac with great pride and love. Declan’s warmth, commitment and dedication were instantly recognisable. I will miss his tremendous sense of humour, warmth and intelligence. He always made me feel that nothing was impossible and that the only thing stopping me from being the best I could be was me! He was inclusive, kind and very, very funny and I will miss him enormously. My deepest condolences to Joe, Isaac, the rest of his family and to the many friends of Declan who I know will miss him too. Rest in perfect peace Declan.
Ex-National Ambulance Lead UNISON
Reflections of a friend My memories of Dec Heneghan I first spoke to Dec when he was setting up the publication of the West Country Ambulance Services in-house magazine. Jane and I had started Red Rose Medical Supplies and we were one of his first advertisers. We hit it off straight away on the phone, as we had mutual interests in football and other things. We met at Ambex over 20 years ago and the friendship developed ever deeper, sharing many an interesting evening, usually with a pint or a Southern Comfort and Lemonade involved. There are many stories which will stay buried but we shared some sad times, private family times and some amazing laughs. My abiding memory will be a Sunday morning when Dec and his partner were staying with us and were told, “you need to be up early, as we are going jet skiing out of Langstone Harbour”. At 10.00 there was still no sign of Dec or his lady so I put on AC/DCs album Back in Black, side 1, track 1, Hells Bells. After the third rather loud chime, Dec came running down the stairs in just his boxers, (not a pleasant sight!) screaming, “What was that, the earth just moved!” The speakers were against the ceiling of the lounge (the bedrooms floor) and turned up to 11! It got him up and we had a great day in Langstone Harbour. Spending time with Dec and his sons, Joe and Dan, when they were little, playing cards and generally chatting until the small hours when they were on holiday from school. Getting Dec to talk slower because his enthusiasm would run away with him and we had to rein him in. We kept saying we would meet up on holiday in Greece but never made it and that is a big regret but probably not for the residents around the area we were going to stay in! Dec showed me around his Liverpool, parts that tourists don’t necessarily see. He was a great tour guide, introducing me to the Cavern Club, cultural hot spots, assorted bars, clubs and his local friends. I am really going to miss him, especially the fact I never got to say goodbye.
London Ambulance Service
Letter to the Editor Responding to that call It was about a year ago when the editor of an amazing medical emergencies journal, Ambulance Today, sent his greetings to those who comprise the Ecuadorian Red Cross High Technological Institute (ISTCRE). His greetings were the opening for a great inter-institutional work between Ambulance Today and ISTCRE. After a couple of conversations, Declan, editor of Ambulance Today, and his son Isaac visited our country, in our capital Quito, and were part of our organization by working with our editorial board. Riding along with ISTCRE ambulances we knew the best of him. His politeness, his cordiality, his experience in the best 8Today | Winter 2018 emergency systems around the world and his talent to translate into letters his best anecdotes in different prehospital settings made him one of our best friends. Although Declan was not a paramedic, he was part of our emergency systems and as one of us he responded to several calls, willing to listen, willing to help and willing to learn. Last week, he responded to one more call. Last wednesday, November 28, Declan responded to that call that life makes to us when we least expect it, when we are less ready. We do not choose the place or the time to say goodbye. He didn’t either. Declan left part of his essence with us. ISTCRE and its Editorial Board would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family, to his son Isaac and to his colleagues at this time. With no doubt, he leaves a great legacy for all of the emergency medical responders. Thanks to him, the approach with several systems around the world will be possible, seeking to improve the skills and knowledge of each provider and, of course, replicating his extraordinary generosity and cordiality towards our colleagues and our patients too. His humility made him an admirable man. His kindness made him our friend. With deepest sympathy,
Dr. Víctor Malquín Fueltala,
Rector Dr. Gustavo Cevallos Paredes, Vicerector
Dr. Wagner Naranjo Salas,
Editorial Board Representative
Dr. Eric Enríquez Jiménez,
Dr. Roddy Camino Camacho,
Risk Management Committee
MSc. Francisca Yánez Castro,
Lic. Silvia Quinteros Stopper,
Emergency Medicine School
Ing. Rodrigo Rosero Gómez,
Risk Management School
Tlgo. Iván A. Moya
Ambulance System Representative
I am sure I am not alone amongst the other writers I am in the company of in saying that the news about Declan came as a bolt from the blue and a shock. As is always the case when these events happen I started thinking back and realised very quickly that I have known Declan for so long I can’t actually remember when I first met him, but I’m sure it was probably in a bar or at the dinner table of a conference or meeting – the best place for striking up new acquaintances, although not all will turn into friends. Declan was a passionate advocate for information, research and evidence, and recognised the importance it plays in contributing to the constant efforts to improve our services and develop the paramedic profession. He was hugely supportive of the work we do in Sheffield, in other academic institutions and within ambulance services.
He recognised that not everyone wants to read those dull and sometimes scary academic journal papers and so provided a platform for me, and for other researchers, to showcase our work in a format that brought it to a different and wider audience. How big that audience has become from small beginnings in the UK to the international reach it has today – achieved through Declan’s utter belief in Ambulance Today and his determination to put it on the world map. The international interest featured in the innovative series of issues highlighting EMS in different countries. I’ve enjoyed reading all of those and always learn something new, but have a particular fondness for the one on Denmark. I was fortunate to be part of some of the work that went into producing that issue and I spent a few happy days hopping between Copenhagen and Malmo with Declan, his team, and mutual friends and colleagues in a whirl of discussions, conversations and visits. The success of those overseas ventures are of course down to Declan the man, not just the magazine proprietor. How would I describe Declan? Principled, pragmatic, intelligent, plain speaking (a kindred spirit), but with integrity, honesty and an unflinching belief in social justice. And he could talk. If there were medals for talking Declan would have an Olympic gold. A phone conversation would never be less than an hour, often longer – but full of his passion and conviction for wherever the current issue was. That was work, there were of course many other times, back to the bars and dinner tables, where the conversations drifted towards other topics and I was always astonished at the breadth and depth of Declan’s knowledge on just about any subject. He was also as partial as I am to a bit of juicy gossip. We also shared a fondness for Greece – Declan so much so that he bought his own little bit of that paradise to spend some precious downtime with his lovely boys. Mine is one of many tributes in this issue from people across the sector. Some I will know, some will be dear friends and others strangers but there is the common thread linking and binding us all – and that is Declan. We will celebrate his successes but will not be able to escape the painful truth that he still had so much more to give, left too soon and that the world will be a little less bright without him in it.
Reader in Emergency & Urgent Care Research
The University of Sheffield
My Latest Letter Jerry Overton International Academies of Emergency Medical Dispatch There are many here among us Who feel that life is but a joke But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that And this is not our fate So let us stop talkin’ falsely now The hour’s getting late, hey “All Along the Watchtower”
Dear Dec Dec Heneghan, you were my close friend. What a privilege it is to write that, and if I wrote no more, it would be tribute enough.
But alas, because of how hard these last few days have been, I simply can’t stop there. Dec, you were a real rock and roller and you appreciated that each “Letter from America” opened with some meaningful lyrics for the subject of the issue, and this letter to you should not have been any different. However, it is, because this is for you, Dec. Yes, I know, I quoted these Dylan lyrics before, but they just seem appropriate. We knew that life was no joke, and what great straight “talkin” we did. And . . . the hour now has passed. Remembering back, it was because of Ambulance Today that we first met. It is easy to remember your persuasive coercion that we should be a part of your vision. You must be so very proud, because you made that vision a reality, a journal now reaching those around the globe. Dec, how I respected you because you truly gave a damn. A rarity. I cannot remember you ever placing yourself first. And your passion! What a combination when you were fighting for your latest cause. Certainly, we did not always agree and that led to some very “interesting” times, and VERY long “discussions,” but in the end we always found common ground, some way, somehow, because our causes were the same, the best for the paramedics and the patients. My God how I am going to miss you. I am going to miss those many evenings we sat at The Pilgrim, never really having dinner, drinking whisky after whisky after whisky, solving ALL the problems of the world. We tackled U. S politics, U. K. politics, world news and the economic issues of the day. In the end, perhaps it was only the economy of Scotland that we helped but we both felt just fine at the night . . . or was it early morning? Sorry Dec, I just can’t write anymore, it is too fucking hard. Usually I would end my letter with another set of lyrics, but this time will be different. You knew of my affinity for the American humourist Mark Twain and when I think of you, and this past week, there is a quote from him that immediately comes to mind. Hopefully, you will like it. “Let us endeavour to live so that when we die, even the undertaker will be sad.” Today, the undertaker, and me, are devastated.
I was Chair of the UNISON Ambulance Sector for many years until about 2015 all through the Agenda for Change period and frequently met with Declan in London and at conferences. I always found him a pleasure to be with and he was so genuine and giving in all the many dealings I had with him. He was very aware of the sensitivities that were around personalities in the profession and never spoke ill or badly of anyone. I found him to be an exemplary journalist and I am genuinely saddened to hear of his sudden passing. Although I have been out of the ambulance world for a while I have lovely memories of Declan. He had interviewed me a couple of times and those articles were always faithful to the letter, but we met a few times just for a catch up as he was so well informed, he kept good counsel and was a pleasure to be near. Declan is one of the people who I feel made a huge difference to the profession. There have been some premature losses recently with Dave Galligan, Craig Wilde, Roger Poole and Malcolm Woolard who all influenced the work of the profession without making a huge noise about their efforts. Declan will be sorely missed, my condolences to his family. May he rest in peace.
Former NHS Paramedic 1982 -2017
Chair UNISON Ambulance Sector 2004 -2015
NHS Staff Council Ambulance Member 2005- 2017
There are different types of journalists. Declan Heneghan was a journalist. Not a cheap, red top journalist or gossip columnist but undoubtedly the single most knowledgeable and informed correspondent on ambulance services, and ambulance people, of his generation. Dec’s writing for Ambulance Today was both wide ranging, sharply technical and also emotionally rounded. He wrote editorial copy like he spoke, in depth and at length. His profound respect and admiration for the crews who dedicate their lives to saving others was a consistent feature of his work for nearly 20 years.
Ambulance Today was Dec’s Opus, his masterpiece and the love of his working life, his pride. The only thing in his life that gave him more pride than his magazine, were his sons Joe and Isaac. Certainly, these young men have inherited Dec’s compassion and urbane countenance and, I hope, like their dad will travel excessively, build relationships on every continent, and understand as much of this world as their father did. Colleagues who work in or around ambulances have lost a champion but those of us who have come to know Dec over the years have also lost a good friend. Rest in Peace.
MD – Ambulanz Community Partners
Ferno are deeply saddened to hear the news that Declan Heneghan died suddenly on 28th November. Dec was well known in the Ambulance industry, not just in the UK, but Worldwide. Dec will be remembered for his immense contribution to the ambulance sector, not least as owner and editor of Ambulance Today. Dec has always been supportive of Ferno and over the years we have had the pleasure of calling him a friend; he was one of the biggest characters in the business, and the industry will miss him dearly. Ferno have worked closely with Dec for over 15 years, and on behalf of the entire Ferno family, globally, we send our sincere condolences to Dec’s family and his colleagues at Ambulance Today.
Managing Director Ferno
A Decade of Dec When first asked by Joe to write some words about his dad I was very honoured and of course readily agreed to write about a great friend and colleague. Then I asked what my deadline was and Joseph said ‘needed ASAP’ as Dec had been working on finalising the publication of this ill-fated edition. I couldn’t help but have a wry smile as Dec and I often had precisely this conversation and even in passing he was chasing me for a deadline! 10Today | Winter 2018 So, like many others I met Dec professionally through Ambulance Today. We soon hit it off whilst having a ‘pint and a ciggie’ discussing the trials and tribulations facing the ambulance service of the day. In recent years of course that relationship developed into something more personal and important. Dec was a kind, generous man who took time to listen to people, really hearing what they were saying and placing that in the context of ambulance life. Dec also had a passion for what he saw as opportunities to improve things, able to galvanise people into focussed, collaborative teams. Through one such project with the Helen Hamlyn Trust and the Royal College of Arts – ‘Designing the Future Ambulance’, I had a great opportunity to meet global leaders in the pre-hospital care such as Jaap Hatenboer from UMCG Ambulance Netherlands and the eminent cardiologist Pascal Meier, as well as many other global connections that last to this day. Dec, had a unique way in promoting individuals and their skills – not in some superficial, sycophantic way, but in a warm genuine manner that made people feel good about themselves and their contributions. Dec my friend, you were a true gentleman and be will sorely missed – the blue lights of the ambulance world will flash just a little dimmer for your passing.
Deputy Director of Fleet and Logistics
London Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Declan called me last week when I was in Portugal, asking when I will come to Liverpool… emphasizing that I will always have a place to stay in his house. So, somehow, I have a feeling that he knew that something was going to happen… He dedicated his life to Ambulance Today and helping others. One of the good guys. Always looking at innovation and improvement within the ambulance sector. Treating his subscribers as friends and not just customers. He was always in a good mood, always friendly and always helping people. We always had good time together, both in business and socially. We all have our time to be here and our time to go. Unfortunately it was your time
now. I will be missing you and hope you are happy wherever you go. My condolences to his family.
It was with great sadness that I note Declan’s untimely death last week. I have known him for many years and I am aware that his background was in journalism and that initially he entered the ambulance sector producing the Western Front which was the local journal for the West Country Ambulance Service. Progressing, he became involved with the Ambulance Service Institute and published their journal. Approximately 17 years ago he launched Ambulance Today, a journal that has grown in stature and size. Declan, through the journal, had a strong relationship with Unison and collectively strove to improve patient services. Declan was a very colourful character and a great addition to the industry. He will be sadly missed.
Professor Sir Keith Porter
Professor of Clinical Traumatology
I was deeply saddened to hear that Declan has passed away far too soon. Declan was a person who radiated with energy and interest and was a very inspiring person to know and a true friend. Declan went to Denmark on several occasions and wrote great articles regarding our ambulance service which we are very grateful for. I extend my deepest sympathies to the family.
Falck Ambulance Denmark
It is with a heavy heart and a sense of disbelief that I find myself penning a piece in remembrance of my good friend, Declan Heneghan. We first became acquainted about ten years ago and, in what seems like no time, a firm friendship developed. His untimely passing will leave a permanent gap in my life as I’m sure it will in the lives of his many friends and colleagues not only in Liverpool, but around the world. Uppermost in my mind though are his sons, Joe and Isaac. Declan’s commitment to their wellbeing and happiness saw no bounds and my heart goes out to them as they come to terms with their loss. Declan’s devotion to the magazine came second but was no less real. His passionate promotion of the world’s ambulance services was manifested in the extraordinary levels he went to in order to bring people together. From road staff to fleet managers to chief executives to Government Ministers, he listened to them all. He travelled as far afield as the Arctic Circle, the United States, Canada and of course all over Europe, even taking in vehicle manufacturers in Poland and Greece. (The Africa Desk is testament to his ambitions.) Future plans included New Zealand, Australia and India. And it’s not that he enjoyed travelling, he didn’t. It was something he saw as ‘having to be done’ to further his dream of building an international ambulance community able to freely exchange knowledge and ideas. I think he achieved that and it should be a lasting tribute to his memory. This all came at a cost though. Ambulance Today had to be a tightly run ship to stay afloat and as a result was never overburdened with staff. He had two loyal and much valued assistants but the workload that fell on his shoulders was enormous meaning fourteen hour days, not to mention frequently getting up in the middle of the night to make international calls. As we all know, the worst boss you can have is yourself and, when you’re also a perfectionist, it’s even worse. (I once gleefully pointed out a ‘typo’ that had crept into one of the editions not appreciating that it would take him weeks to get over
it.) Only a few people fully understood just how much it took out of him to produce a magazine to such a high standard and consistent quality. I know that Dec would have demanded that I should extend a huge and heart felt thank you on his behalf to all the loyal readers and contributors who together made Ambulance Today such a huge success. He never lost sight of the fact that his chosen path was ultimately all about people and I think the magazine reflected that. On a final and more personal note, there is something I am going to miss greatly in a perverse kind of way. Declan knew that I was never one for early nights and would occasionally give me a call after finally switching off his computer. The problem was that the end of Declan’s day was invariably around midnight. I would be contentedly anticipating bed when the phone would ring. It could only be Declan. “Hi, mate. Are you OK for a quick chat?” I would hesitate. “Well actually I was just about to…” The ensuing conversation would ramble and range for an hour or more but it would always be lively and stimulating. Eventually, drained and blinking, I would make my way up to bed. I won’t get those calls any more. That hurts. By chance it’s midnight as I write this and oh wouldn’t it be great if the phone were to ring with that familiar Liverpudlian voice on the other end saying something like… “Hi, mate. Have you got five minutes?”
Ex-Paramedic – West Midlands Ambulance Service
Former Ambulance Today Correspondent
I met Declan Heneghan (Dec) for the first time at the Ambex Conference in Harrogate. At the time I was the lead negotiator for NHS ambulance staff in the UK and I had been invited to speak about how we might improve Industrial Relations. Dec was invited in his capacity as editor of the West Country Ambulance Service magazine. Dec lit up the room with his smile and his unforgettable chuckle and his energy and enthusiasm was infectious. In those days some 20+ years ago, Dec had hair on his head and I was a glamorous size 12. Dec and I hit it off immediately and we spent several hours together in the next few days, talking, singing and dancing. Dec told me all about his dream to produce an ambulance magazine, that would be read by everyone in the UK who was involved in the ambulance services. Dec wanted to produce a publication that would inform, encourage, educate and lobby on best practise and innovation in ambulance service delivery. This was a very tall order during a period of difficult industrial relations; there was also competition, rather than collaboration, between the newly formed Ambulance Trusts and the Government had introduced the Privatisation of Patient Transport Services (PTS). Dec was undaunted, he lobbied, cajoled and persuaded people to make his dream a reality. Dec wanted contributions and sponsorship from every facet of the service. Meanwhile he used his considerable charm and influence to highlight the work of the people who delivered the service, be that in control rooms or on the road. I remember Dec at his persuasive best when I joined him in 1999 in a meeting with Piers Morgan (at that time editor of the Daily Mirror); when he convinced Piers to run a competition in the Daily Mirror. The competition called on readers to nominate an ambulance Millennium Star. The editorial reminded readers that whilst they were celebrating the arrival of the new millennium; ambulance crews, control staff and managers would be saving lives and looking after the sick and injured, on the busiest night in the history of the ambulance service. The public responded in their hundreds with tales of heroism and kindness that were over and above the call of duty. Those of us on the panel, which included Piers, Dec and me, were tasked with finding one outstanding candidate. The task proved to be impossible; we concluded that they were all “Millennium Stars”. Dec was an even tempered, kind and gentle man as well, but when he was moved to anger it was best to stay out of the way until he had calmed down. I remember an incident in Northern Ireland during the troubles, when an ambulance crew came under attack when they went to attend a person who was injured during a sectarian exchange of gun fire. Dec was incandescent with anger and yelled through his columns (Dec was also a freelance journalist), and on the radio, his condemnation of the factions on both sides who had put the lives of lifesavers at risk. Many people who have been invited to write a few words about Dec will have their own memories to share about the man who was “Ambulance Today”. I know we all remember him as a prolific, passionate, prosaic and talented writer, and defender of the NHS Ambulance services. I remember the other Dec with love and warmth too. Dec was above all else a family man and nothing was more precious to Dec than his boys. Dec was a single parent who loved his boys unreservedly. It was impossible to have a conversation with Dec for more than two minutes before he talked about his pride in his sons’ achievements and his admiration for what honourable and decent young men they had become. I watched the boys grow up and they visited me in London. Dec’s eldest son Joe reminded me when I spoke to him following his Dad’s death that they called me their “London Granny”. I am happy that the last time I saw Dec, just a few weeks ago on the day before his youngest son Isaac’s 16th birthday, we sat in the autumn sunshine with a glass of wine and shared some of our memories with Isaac. Dec was happy and content. His magazine is now read all over the world and I still get my copy in the post. In the early days UNISON was proud to sponsor and contribute a column in Ambulance Today and I’m delighted that UNISON continues to support and contribute to every edition. I think the magazine is unique, because it brings together contributions from trade union representatives, managers of the service, innovators, trainers, equipment providers and manufacturers, and private ambulance providers – not just in the UK but across the world. Dec has left us a legacy which I hope will be nurtured and continue to grow. Our lives will be impoverished by Dec’s death. I shall miss my friend, but I will treasure my fond memories of him, the magazine and above all else his boys. Goodbye Dec.
Maggie Dunn – Former National
Negotiator for Ambulance, UNISON
What tremendous sadness we all felt at the news of Declan’s passing last week. So full of life, so engaged with his work and so immersed in the ambulance community was Dec, that it is hard to imagine who could possibly fill the gap he leaves behind. His networking capabilities were legendary and his commitment to his craft unstinting. Those who did not have the opportunity to work with Dec will find it hard to comprehend what it was to be in his company, and to witness at first hand his ability to bring people together. I consider it my great privilege that I did.
Vice President – International Operations
ZOLL Medical Corp.
Our friendship with Declan Heneghan began in Harrogate at AMBEX 2002 and grew initially from a mutual, heartfelt desire to improve all aspects of the delivery of ambulance care within the UK ambulance service. Declan’s passion and dedication to ambulance staff is widely known. His energy, communication skills and the knowledge gained through his numerous ambulance contacts has provided and enabled a platform of open communication to develop between staff, ambulance trusts, training institutions and ambulance equipment suppliers. Ambulance Today has evolved from a vision to provide a quality, specialist magazine for all UK ambulance service staff into what is today – a first class, well respected, specialist global vehicle for the provision of quality ambulance care for ambulance staff worldwide – whether they are members of an ambulance trust, private ambulance service or voluntary service. On a personal level our friendship developed alongside the growth of Ambulance Today. We met Dec’s sons in in 2005 and have many happy memories from shared trips around Liverpool and Derbyshire, visits and meals around each other’s tables including his own Heneghan recipe for Scouse, a Christmas Meal for Heneghans, his local and Dutch friends, and those involved in the magazine (in November!), and Chocolate Biscuit Cake. We were honoured to be welcomed as a part of the Heneghan family and to include them in our own. Declan possessed two great talents. The first was the ability to bring together people from all levels of the ambulance world, giving them a forum for positive, constructive communication in areas as diverse as innovative ambulance and equipment design, skills, education and training. The second, in passing on his passion for all things ambulance and having the vision to see the talents of others and to encourage them to become part of the wider Ambulance Today team. The Annual Christmas Lunch was used as an opportunity to gather an eclectic mix of family, and friends, Ambulance Service members – from PTS to Chief Execs, medical equipment CEOs, paramedic instructors and guests from ambulance services of other countries – to name but a few – in a social setting. Discussions started at lunchtime and often lasted until early the next morning. Declan wasn’t only the highly respected founder, editor and owner of Ambulance Today, he was also very family orientated – Dec to his close family and Dad to his beloved sons who came first in everything. He was so proud of them and of their achievements. To his many friends he was always steadfast and supportive to their needs. We were sorrowed to hear of his death on Wednesday and are so deeply saddened by Dec’s loss but feel we must celebrate his life and commemorate all he has achieved. He will be greatly missed by the ambulance world. Rest In Peace, dear friend.
Maurice & Elizabeth Haslam
Ex-National Ambulance Lead
Declan was a wonderful friend to us at Miles Smith and his death is a real tragedy for the industry. Declan was a leading figure within the ambulance sector, who’s passion inspired so many. The industry will be a sadder place without him. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.
Annie Wakeman and Grant Irwin
Miles Smith Insurance
We were shocked and very saddened to learn of Declan’s sudden death. Through his vision, leadership and tenacity Declan was able to grow Ambulance Today into a truly global voice for EMS that is advancing and strengthening paramedicine in countries around the world. Those of us who knew Declan personally recognize that he was a very special individual who genuinely and deeply cared for those who serve patients in the field. On behalf of everyone at NAEMT, we express our deepest condolences to the Heneghan family.
Pam Lane, NAEMT Executive Director
It is with profound shock and sorrow that I am sharing my thoughts on the sudden and tragic death of my dear friend Declan, or Dec as we fondly called him. Dec exemplified the grit, determination and devotion of purpose in establishing Ambulance Today as the leading magazine
and portal for ambulance professionals internationally over the last 15 years. His knowledge about the sector was second to none and he considered his work as a ‘service’ for the betterment of the ambulance profession. We both shared the same passion to make a difference, in our own ways, to the professionalisation and modernisation of the ambulance services and supporting their staff. His true legacy is creating a platform to bring the global ambulance community together and I am confident that his son Joe and the team will continue to take Ambulance Today to greater heights.
Professor Paresh Wankhade
Professor of Leadership and Management
& Director of Research
Edge Hill University, UK
Dec was a rough diamond who’s persona shone brightly across the emergency medical services world. He was, without doubt, a people’s person and there wasn’t a key opinion leader within the industry that he didn’t know or he hadn’t canvased. He had the ability connect with people on all levels; be it a CFR or CEO his drive and passion to promote all things EMS was evident to all. Personally, I had the pleasure of knowing Dec for many years and we would often share stories and a cigarette (or three!) at the many trade shows that we would frequent alongside Joe and, more recently, Isaac. Dec, you’ll be sorely missed. And I’d like to say thank you, give you a big hug for all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve shed in your efforts in getting the second best ambulance magazine (behind the SP Services catalogue!) to EMS professionals across the globe. RIP to a true gentleman.
Paul Watts, SP Services
I retired from my full-time work with the NHS nearly 30 years ago, but my great interest in Resuscitation Medicine has led to my maintaining contact with the ambulance service in a continuing capacity as an honorary medical advisor to SECAmb. This involves activities such as giving lectures, attending a limited number of other meetings, and looking at transmitted ECGs to check for anomalies and defects.
One of the privileges that this responsibiliy brings is contact with ambulance personnel and with others whose activities are closely associated with the service. Ranking very high in this latter category has been Declan Heneghan who, working with his son Joe, has produced for some years the journal Ambulance Today that enjoys a wide circulation in Europe and indeed further afield. Its content is relevant, up-to-date, and extremely useful not only for news content but also for guidance and advice for the service, much of it written by leading experts in the fields it covers. I have been deeply upset today to learn of Declan’s untimely death from a heart attack, and feel an urge to pay my tribute to a great man who had boundless energy and served as an example to many, though few could ever match his contributions to the service. To me, he was a friend, and one whom I will never forget.
Douglas Chamberlain CBE MD FRCP FERC