Paramedics are on the front line 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and are never more than a call away. So Lancashire Telegraph reporter Neil Athey has been to see for himself just how the North West Ambulance Service goes about it's daily task of saving lives.

ANNOUNCING over the radio 'a baby is fitting at a house in Blackburn', the 999 despatch caller directed us to our first 'shout'.

Strapping myself into the estate vehicle alongside advanced paramedic Nick Sutcliffe the reality of the life and death situations facing the North West Ambulance Service were blatantly obvious.

As we arrived outside the caller's home a young family was waiting in fear outside.

A regular ambulance had beaten us to the scene by seconds and it's crew were trying to reassure the baby's parents and offer immediate first aid.

As the most senior medic in attendance Nick, who manages a team of 12 senior paramedics in the East Lancashire area, decided the child needed immediate hospital care.

As we followed the ambulance to the hospital in case its condition deteriorated, former firefighter Nick, who has 19 years experience with the ambulance service, cases involving children can be 'very difficult' to deal with.

He said: "It's important to stay as a team and support each other.

"The job can take its toll when you get several traumas in one week, when you have three car crashes, sick children, three heart attacks and other major incidents all at once it really puts a strain on you.

"We often talk to each other after jobs and make sure everyone is okay, what didn't affect you could affect someone else.

"We don't get used to it, but everyone is used to having to deal with it.

"We have support there now for staff to help them.

"We're not heroes, we are here to do a job we are paid for like everyone else.

"But we are human, we can make mistakes, but that's why because we all get on well with each other we can challenge opinions and make sure we've done everything properly.

"Just because I'm in charge doesn't mean I'm right at that moment."

After we see the baby to the hospital, I realise that although I have pulled over many times to give way to ambulances attending emergency calls I have very rarely given much thought to what the crew maybe facing.

"It's something that tests you because every single 'job' is different," said Nick.

"You could go to one car crash on a Monday and then another on Tuesday and the situation is entirely different.

"An older man having a heart attack at the wheel is very different to a pregnant woman, you have to be prepared for lots of situations.

"It's tough, it is and there's no hiding from it, but I think that pushes all paramedics to do the best they can," he said.

The role of the advance paramedic is different to that of a paramedic, who travels in a ambulance. Unlike their colleagues advanced paramedics travel alone and are more senior. They tend to have more experience and are trained to a higher level.

His role is to attend major incidents, such as car crashes, heart attacks and other complex traumas and is often one of he very first people on the scene of an accident.

His estate car is stacked full of medical equipment similar designed for use in all sorts of emergency situations.

The despatch caller is back: "An elderly woman has suffered a heart attack in her home."

Alerting the communications team we are on our way, Nick switches on the sirens.

As the call echoes out for hundreds of yards down the street, everyone knows they need to get out of the way and fast.

Carefully navigating through red lights, speed cameras and bus lanes, Nick's driving skills were put to the test as we reach the M65 accelerate towards the incident.

Nick tells me he is constantly thinking about the situation, which changes and develops as we get closer, making him plan his next move.

As we arrive we see two ambulances outside the house in Accrington, and Nick tells me six of his colleagues are already inside doing everything they can.

The woman isn't breathing on her own and her heart is not beating by itself.

As the family look on in terror, Nick gently approaches them and explains what the team are trying to do and does his best to keep them calm.

But despite the best efforts the team are forced to make the devastating decision to stop working.

I stand in silence as the family try to come to terms with their loss and listen to words of comfort offered by one of the paramedics.

Nick said: "We've all seen hundreds of bodies but we never get used to it.

"Children are very difficult to deal with, none of us want to come across those sorts of situations.

"But I love being a paramedic, caring for patients is something I have always wanted to do and will never stop."

During his career, Nick said has seen an increase in a number of different incidents, including suicides.

He said: "I have found suicides hard to deal with.

"We have to be there for the family and to support them.

"Sometimes it can be quite upsetting dealing with the emotions from the families

"We also see more road side collisions now because more people are on the road than ever before."

Other complications that come with the job are assaults, Nick said almost all paramedics he has worked with have been assaulted in one way or another.

Looking towards the future, he said the profession is constantly adapting and changing.

Nick said: "Paramedics now have to have a degree, so they are getting a better education.

"Technology is rapidly changing and improving the efficiency of paramedics, which means survival rates are increasing through that.

"I've always said it's about having the right care for the right person.

"It would be easy to say I want to hire 500 paramedics and everything would be fine, but it's about having the specifically trained people doing the specific jobs.

"It would be pointless for myself to go to what I would see as a 'minor' job, when there could be someone's life at risk and they die because I'm not there.

"The way we work, the way we train and the way we think about different situations is always changing for the better.

"This can only mean better treatment for our patients."