85-year-old Mid-Devon Community First Responder attends Palace Garden Party | News

85-year-old Mid-Devon Community First Responder attends Palace Garden Party

An 85-year-old active volunteer, from Culmstock in Mid-Devon, who joined the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) as a Community First Responder (CFR) at the age of 70, recently attended His Majesty’s garden party at Buckingham Palace. 

Michael Dearden was nominated to attend the garden party on Tuesday 21 May, by colleagues and other volunteers, from within the ambulance service.

Michael is believed to be the second oldest CFR in the country and has given 15 years of dedicated volunteering service responding to 999 emergency calls in his local community, for up to 12 hours a week.

Michael joined SWASFT with basic first aid training having been a first aider for many years at work, including his time in the Royal Naval Submarine Service. However, he was keen to stress that you do not need to have any clinical qualifications to become a Community First Responder as SWASFT provide all the training. Michael received further training in Advanced First Aid and Emergency Life Support at SWASFT, skills which are continually updated. 

Michael said, "Back in 2008, the CFR scheme was just starting and I saw an advert for new volunteers and thought why not, and I am still happily attending patients today.

“Over the years I have seen improvements made to how volunteers can support and treat patients. As CFRs we carry oxygen and a defibrillator together with a full observation kit. We are trained to operate a Raizer Chair, which has really transformed our ability to be able to lift a fallen person from the floor, and following a recent trial, we are now trained to carry and administer pain relief which has also made a massive difference to the care we can provide to our patients. 

"When I receive a call, I often get to the incident ahead of an ambulance because CFRs work in their own local area. I’ve been trained by SWASFT to deal with an emergency incident, in a calm and professional manner. 

"In terms of managing your time as a CFR volunteer with SWASFT it is very straightforward. If you want to work, you simply log yourself on as available and you will receive a call to go to an emergency.

"When you walk into a person’s home, I always feel it is a great honour to be accepted to provide first aid and life-saving support. A lot of my work is being able to bring calm to people, and I find it’s often other family members who need it most during a very stressful time. You never know what the next call will bring, sometimes the difference you make is providing reassurance with a cup of tea and sometimes it’s saving someone's life."

Jane Whichello, Head of Volunteering and Community Services, at the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said, “On behalf of South Western Ambulance Service I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Michael for his hard work and dedicated service and for the incredible contribution he has made to his local community and to SWASFT over the past fifteen years. He has brought emergency treatment, comfort and support to countless patients and their families, often in one of the most scary times of their lives.  And I have no doubt that Michael will continue to do so for some time to come.  I am very proud that Michael was selected to represent all our ambulance volunteers at the garden party at Buckingham Palace this year. 

“Every day, volunteer Community First Responders from across the South West support SWASFT by attending emergencies within their local communities, often ahead of an emergency ambulance.

“Volunteering is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn valuable lifesaving skills through the training and ongoing support from the dedicated volunteering team.”

SWASFT has over 580 active volunteer Community First Responders who support the service in patient-facing roles. To find out about volunteering roles at the Trust and to express an interest, please visit - https://www.swast.nhs.uk/welcome/community-first-responders/volunteer-recruitment

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