“Exceptional” ambulance medic wins Mayor’s top work award
A man who was inspired to join London Ambulance Service by the paramedic who saved his life has scooped a prestigious award from the Mayor of London at a ceremony last night (2 November).
Ben Lees, 48, was left fighting for his life after a devastating car crash in his teens. His neck was broken and his head injuries were so severe he fell into a coma.
He eventually recovered but the brain injury left him suffering from seizures. He was just 19.
His injuries meant he lost his driving licence.
He said: “It was heart-breaking. Not only was I still reeling from the physical and mental effects of the crash, but I had to come to terms with not being able to pursue a career as a paramedic – something I was inspired to do after surviving the crash.”
Instead Ben enrolled at university and qualified as a PE teacher. He worked in several schools in Hampshire and Hertfordshire but never got over his dream of becoming a paramedic.
Ben said: “The ambition to work on ambulances was always there: the sound of sirens, the thought that I wanted to help. And the memory of the ambulance medic visiting me in hospital after the crash has always sat in the back of my mind.”
More than 25 years on, when Ben was finally able to get a driving licence again, that memory prompted him to successfully apply for a job as an Emergency Medical Technician at London Ambulance Service. Later, he earned a place on the LAS paramedic apprenticeship scheme – which allows frontline crews to gain a degree and become fully-qualified paramedics.
He is now only a year away from achieving his life-long dream.
At the 2023 Adult Learning Awards ceremony held at City Hall, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan presented Ben with the Good Work Award, which recognised his exceptional professional progression in the workplace.
He said: “I have dreamt of getting where I am for nearly 30 years. I am so proud and honoured. Getting this recognition from the Mayor feels incredible.”
Ben was also recognised for having taken the brave step of opening up about his journey as a neurodivergent medic.
He said: “I masked my ADHD diagnosis during my first three years in the Service, but talking about it has really helped me embrace it.
“I have received incredible support from my managers, who have made the adjustments I needed. I would really encourage anyone with similar diagnoses to speak up. There are arrangements that can help you feel more empowered to do your job well.”
Damian McGuinness, Chief People Officer at London Ambulance Service, said: “I am in awe of Ben’s determination to pursue his dream career and getting where he is today.
“Having got to this point while overcoming real challenges is incredibly inspirational. I once again offer my congratulations for achieving this milestone with such passion and care.”
Last night, London Ambulance Service also won the Apprentice Employer of the Year Award for the second time running.
The accolade highlights the Service’s commitment to help Londoners get into a highly-skilled profession via accessible and inclusive routes, as well as its dedication in supporting new staff through their professional and academic journeys.
You can find out more about our apprenticeship opportunities, on our dedicated web page.