Q&A with Shane Ford
Broking Executive Shane Ford talks to us about his career to date, including his experiences supporting the independent ambulance sector over the past 18 months.
When did you join One Broker?
I joined the company in the first week of July 2016. At that time, I mainly worked with haulage clients alongside Ian Limeburner. I also handled more general commercial insurance enquiries, covering a range of businesses and charities.
About 3 months in, I was invited to work on the Private Ambulance Insurance scheme. The team went through a period of rapid growth and needed extra support. Ever since then, the number of ambulance clients has increased – that’s almost all the work I do now.
Why do you think this has happened?
Not only are people more aware of the scheme but the sector has grown too. There were fewer private ambulance companies five years ago – especially with everything that’s gone on in the last 12 months or so.
Is there anything you particularly enjoy about working with the ambulance sector?
The variety – no two businesses are the same. Even if you’ve got two businesses that provide medical cover at events, one of them could be supporting Premier League clubs and the other could be doing Ironman-type events and endurance sports.
And then you’ve got NHS response on top of that, alongside people getting involved in mental health transfer and things like that as well.
Read more: Q&A with Mersey Medical Services
How much has your knowledge of the ambulance sector developed?
When I was first told I’d be working with independent ambulance companies, I didn’t know much at all! Like a lot of people, I thought it covered organisations like St John’s Ambulance – first-aid tents at music events, community fairs and school fetes and so on. But when you dig down into it, you realise that the private sector is integral to healthcare in the UK.
Have your ambulance clients seen any common challenges over the past year?
A lot of the challenges in the ambulance sector came during the first lockdown when events were suspended. Event support businesses faced a lot of challenges. They lost a whole summer’s worth of work.
Obviously, there’s been a lot more NHS help required, so event companies chipped in and helped there. We’ve also seen clients get involved with community testing and moving around samples, or providing support when the Nightingale hospitals opened, transferring patients between locations.
There’s a unique set of challenges for those organisations. They essentially had to change their business model overnight. Things became more clinically intense, which is a big change.
Risk management is of heightened importance now too, in order to protect staff and patients. Of course, medical companies already had good infection control, awareness and procedures but the scale of coronavirus has meant our clients have had to learn and adapt very quickly.
How have insurers responded to these changes?
Insurers tried to do whatever they could to help to keep independent ambulance businesses going, which was really beneficial. We had vehicle insurers saying they’d look at laying up some fleets and offering reduced cover. The understanding was that if they weren’t going to events or driving vehicles, they weren’t going to have accidents.
The same goes for the non-motor insurers. They arrange premiums based on turnover. If turnover significantly dropped, they tried to help.
I think they’ve been pretty flexible with new activities, like testing, process tests and samples and all of that, too. In the past, if a client said they were going to start testing for highly infectious diseases, the insurer might have been wary, but they’re much more open to it now.
Do you see any common ambulance claims?
We’re lucky that we don’t get many claims, although there are more on the Motor Insurance side. Things like hitting parked cars or fixed objects, such as bollards or walls. Those vehicles aren’t really designed for tight spaces and hospital car parks so they occasionally come into contact with fixed objects.
We don’t get many claims under blue-light conditions because drivers are trained so intensively. The amount of training and procedures that drivers go through to be able to drive under those conditions is so intense and rigorous it almost changes their thought processes completely. They’re constantly reviewing what’s going on in front of them on the roads and aware of potential risks.
Do you support the ambulance claims process?
When someone has their first claim, I tend to be their first port of call. I’ll give them a very brief walk-through of the process before getting in touch with Julie [Ames] in Claims. I’ll explain that she’s going to look after them but I’m still on hand if they need me.
My career began working as a claims handler for an insurer, so that’s given me a really good understanding of what the commercial claims process looks like. It is quite helpful to be able to explain that to a client.
How have you found working from home?
There have been good and bad days but I think most people feel like that!
Generally, we’re quite a close team so we have group chats on Microsoft Teams and we have calls to catch up but it’s not the same as speaking to someone in the office or asking them for advice. It’s difficult to have those spontaneous conversations but I think we’ve done really well at trying to recreate that as much as possible.
Quite often Rachel [Rodden] will phone me to discuss something, or I’ll call Bex [Sutton] for her thoughts. We try to make time for each other so that’s definitely helped.
Are you starting to see things opening back up now?
We’re seeing a lot more enquiries, especially on the events side. Businesses that paused activity a year ago are coming back. I suspect a lot of communities will be organising some sort of catch-up event in the autumn or winter. Hopefully, a lot more events will take place in September and October.
Interestingly, some clients have said they prefer video calls now, so we can be flexible when things open up. Some people don’t want the hassle of having to block out two hours to talk to me – plus have to make me a cup of tea and biscuits! Now I can have my own tea and biscuits but we can still have face-to-face interaction, which really helps with relationship building. It means we’re not just a voice at the end of the phone.
Speak to Shane today!
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