A tireless paramedic who has saved hundreds of lives in the Uttoxeter area has finally been rewarded for his pioneering work with a prestigious honour from the Queen.

Neil Phillips will collect a British Empire Medal decades after coming up with the innovation which mitigated the loss of the old Uttoxeter Ambulance Station around the turn of century.

The 78-year-old had been moved to Stafford, but became the first ever rapid responder in the country after he and former boss Roger Thayne invented the idea.

He was invited to Downing Street in 2004 to tell then-Prime Minister Tony Blair how it worked - and it has since been adopted up and down the country.

Speaking about the moment he opened his Queen's Birthday Honours letter, Neil said: "It was highly unexpected. It's been that long now since I finished that I never thought anything like this would happen.

A letter inviting Neil to Downing Street, where he explained the rapid responder idea he and his boss, Roger Thayne, pioneered.

"I finished when I was 65, so never imagined anything like this would happen to me, even though I've trained First Responders and done a lot of charity work with Uttoxeter Rotary Club since retiring.

"I was the first responder for the service doing the job from home on a 24-7 basis.

"When I was sent to Stafford, I remember kicking up a fuss because I wasn't happy - my friends and family all lived here and it took so long to get there.

"They eventually told me to go away and come up with my own idea about how to solve it.

Neil Phillips, who has been given a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours list 2018.

"After rejecting my first idea because it was too costly, myself and Roger came up with this idea to have a response car based at my home.

"From then on, I don't think there was a 999 call in the area I didn't get to within five minutes, which has saved many lives.

"The ambulance service initially gave me the oldest car they had as a service vehicle, but I managed to get a couple of loan cars from Fiat.

"Then the Rotary Club raised the money for a new vehicle within six weeks, which was incredible really.

Honour for heroes who risked lives to save pilot of crashed plane near Burton

"People in town were so generous it was unbelievable, but they recognised how well the system was working and were happy to help."

Dad-of-two Neil has experienced some traumatic scenes down the years - as well as some joyous ones.

He fondly remembers delivering little Abigail Hamnett in Doveridge after being the first man on the scene, as was usually the case.

The original rapid vehicle given to Neil by the ambulance service.

The Hallam Road resident helped mum Lisa Hamnett deliver her baby.

He said: "It was a magical occasion, that one - a real buzz at the thought of bringing someone into the world.

"For some reason, I've just always had a level head and stay calm in these situations.

"I was just there and helped them both along."

One of the more tragic events was a plane crash in Stowe-by-Chartley in snowy conditions in 1994.

Neil said: "When we got there, the plane had come through the woods and birds were resting on it.

"Because it was snowing, a lot of blood was visible and we could see it was really bad.

"The pilot had sadly died, but we managed to save the passenger and get him out."

The second rapid response vehicle funded by the rotary club.

Neil, who lost wife Monica to cancer aged 65, shortly after his retirement, is awaiting details of when and where he will be presented with his award.

He will also attend next year's Royal Garden Party, at Buckingham Palace.

Who else has won honours in our area?

MBE:

Ms Eileen Chester-James. Chief executive Staffordshire Women's Aid. For services to Victims of Domestic Violence. (Staffordshire)

Professor Vincent Gaffney. Landscape Archaeology University of Bradford. For services to Scientific Research. (Staffordshire)

Mrs Jill Parker. For services to the Magistracy and to the community in Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire. (Pattingham)

Miss Joan Margaret Redfern. For services to The Girl Guides Association in Staffordshire. (Burton-on-Trent)

BEM:

Michael Francis Burke. Peripatetic Caseworker Staffordshire County Council. For services to Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. (Staffordshire)

Mrs Anne Fiona Cherriman. Governor's secretary and Management Co-ordinator, HM Prison Stafford. For services to charity and to the community in Stafford. (Staffordshire)

Anthony Clive Ebbutt. For services to charity and to the community in Burton upon Trent Staffordshire. (Burton upon Trent)

Mrs Margaret Elise Hassall. For services to the community in Stafford. (Little Haywood)

Mrs Ada Anna Haywood. For voluntary service to Cancer Research UK. (Newcastle-under-Lyme)