A FORMER paramedic from County Durham has been honoured for dedicating half a century to the region’s life-saving ambulance service.

Bob Foster, of Trimdon, was one of a whole host of North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) workers to be recognised at its Beyond the Call of Duty Awards ceremony at Sedgefield’s Hardwick Hall Hotel.

The 74-year-old received the 50 years’ service medal following his long career with the service, firstly as a paramedic and now as an ambulance care assistant.

“It just seems like yesterday that I was walking up Byron Terrace to join the ambulance service (in 1967),” he said. “I started out as a casual. I knew it was definitely something I wanted to do.

“Over the years I’ve made a lot of friends and I’ve made a lot of memories.

“The ambulance service has seen me through most of my life - my single days, my courting days, my married days and now it’s looking after me in my old age.”

Mr Foster, who works bank shifts in Newton Aycliffe and Fishburn, transporting patients to scheduled appointments, retired aged 61 but soon returned.

He tried dabbling with retirement again six years later but joined up again.

Another worker to pick up a gong from the 12 award categories on Friday night was innovation and change winner Michael Simpson, of Newton Aycliffe.

The paramedic who has championed and led the Pathfinder Project, scheme piloted in Sunderland which uses a ground-breaking clinical triage tool for patient assessments.

The outstanding mentor award was handed to Amanda Weegram, of Seaton Carew, while the outstanding support services winner was Ruth Bissell, of Bowburn.

Elaine McDonald, of Northallerton, was named senior manager winner, student paramedic Amy O’Hara, of Spennymoor, was crowned student of the year and volunteer of the year went to Gloria Middleton, of Carville.

NEAS chief executive, Yvonne Ormston, said: “Our employees make a difference, day in, day out and it’s important for us to take the time to recognise the amazing work of the truly remarkable team here at the North East Ambulance Service.”