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St John Ambulance: A Vita Safety Case Study


St. John Ambulance is a charity providing healthcare and ambulance services, alongside their business delivering first aid training across the UK. The charity has been providing first aid and first aid training for over 140 years.  They employ around 1700 staff, though they are predominantly a volunteer-empowered organisation with over 25,000 volunteers.

Niloufar Hajilou joined St John Ambulance in 2022 as the Director of Quality and Safety. Her background is in governance, risk management, quality, and safety – but was looking for independent support to get an overview of where the charity stood from a health and safety cultural and compliance point of view. St John Ambulance was keen to understand its H&S strength as well as the areas that needed further focus and attention. This work would support the organisation in embedding a safety culture where everyone understands their H&S responsibilities and commitments.



We needed to develop a Terms of Reference together with St John Ambulance, then build a proposal for them to give a detailed overview of their health and safety performance from a strategy and policy point of view. This would ascertain what support would be needed in terms of policy, audit plans and ensuring a ‘top to bottom’ approach to health and safety with shared accountability across the organisation starting at board level.

From the outset, it was clear that this was to be a fully collaborative project. St John Ambulance already had competent health and safety experts working in the business. It was key that the teams were involved in our support at every stage. From a learning point of view, the team at St John Ambulance were keen to understand their strengths and areas for further development. 



One of our Senior Consultants, Gillian Wood, worked closely with the health and safety directorate to understand the systems and processes, and how health and safety was embedded into the culture of the operation. She worked closely with the key stakeholders in each department to understand the organisation on a deeper level, making sure that any support or recommendations were right for the business as a whole.

Because St John Ambulance is a multi-sited organisation that is so geographically spread, it was key for Gillian to understand the connections in the business from a health and safety point of view. From here, two main areas of focus came from our initial management review.

  • Development and implementation of a transformation plan to strengthen health and safety strategy and policy, leading to improved ways of working and managing H&S across the organisation.
  • Recommendation for different H&S model leading to improved safety culture.


“For me, it was about building a relationship with an independent expert to help us at St John identify areas of H&S best practices as well as improvements that were needed leading to an improved Safety Culture.”

Niloufar Hajilou, Director of Quality and Safety

From the collaborative transformation plan, it was highlighted that St John would benefit from providing training for senior executives to improve their knowledge and understanding of health and safety in their role. As a result, we delivered quality, interactive training sessions designed specifically for the St John Executive teams.

The main outcome for St John Ambulance was the trusted partnership and the assurance and stability we provided towards a modernised H&S culture in the business.

Gillian’s work with the individual departments in the organisation enhanced working relationships and brought a greater sense of cohesion concerning health and safety between them all. It assisted in creating a shared sense of accountability across the organisation from top to bottom.

“I liked the person-centred approach and tailor-made service that Vita Safety provided. It reassured me as a director responsible for health and safety and highlighted the work that we needed to do to make further improvements as well as the areas that we were doing well.”
Niloufar Hajilou, Director of Quality and Safety



Looking ahead

“At St John Ambulance we aspire to have a no-blame culture where everyone feels they can escalate their concerns and ideas without fear of reprisal. We are a learning organisation. And any review or audit we do must have a collaborative approach making sure the voice of our people is at the heart of it. We will continue to strengthen our H&S Safety Culture through clear leadership, training, clear governance and shared accountability where H&S is everyone’s responsibility.”

Niloufar Hajilou, Director of Quality and Safety