South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust logo

Welcome to SWASFT

South Western Ambulance Charity receives £560k funding

26 March 2021

NHS Charities Together has allocated over £560,000 to South Western Ambulance Charity to bolster an army of community first responder volunteers and facilitate additional community projects across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire and the former Avon area (Bristol, Bath, North and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire).  The funding will help to ease the pressure on the service at one of the most challenging times in its history.

The grant is part of £7m which has been allocated by population across all the ambulance charities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In the South West, this charity funding will be used to enhance the role of community first responders, who are trained volunteers dispatched to emergency incidents when every second counts - for example if someone isn’t breathing, has chest pains, is unconscious or fitting - to administer basic life support until an ambulance service arrives.

The funding comes as ambulance services across the country have been dealing with the additional challenges of the Covid crisis. Thanks to support from the public, NHS Charities Together funding in the South West will provide:

  • Observation equipment for community first responder volunteers to provide enhanced assessment and patient care;
  • Lifting chairs to community first responders so they can give early assistance to patients who have experienced a non-injury fall, reducing potential complications associated with being on the floor for an extended period of time;
  • Dedicated community first responder group cars to enable wider geographical reach and a swifter response to emergencies;
  • Awareness and training sessions to increase early intervention for ‘out of hospital’ cardiac arrests as part of our 'Saving Lives Together' campaign, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation training for schools and community groups in hard-to-reach areas;
  • Funding for not-for-profit service GoodSAM, which automatically triggers alerts to any nearby cardiac arrests so volunteers can attend and provide immediate life support while the ambulance is en route, and also identifies the location of the nearest defibrillator;
  • Improved services to meet the needs of those patients suffering mental health issues, including training packages for front line ambulance clinicians to better equip them for complex and challenging calls.

Ellie Orton, Chief Executive for NHS Charities Together, said:

“At this time of immense challenge for the NHS we are delighted that we can make a real difference and ultimately help save lives by funding amazing community first responder volunteers and additional support for South Western Ambulance Service.

“It’s thanks to the overwhelming support of the British public at this difficult time that we are able to fund these vital projects – the NHS has been doing an amazing job but as an independent charity we can provide additional support to help the NHS do more than it otherwise could. A heartfelt thank you to all of our supporters for helping us to care for the NHS.”

Zoe Larter, Head of Charity for South Western Ambulance Charity, said:

“Thanks to support from the public and NHS Charities Together, we are able to go the extra mile for our exceptional staff, volunteer heroes and communities, delivering tangible benefit across the South West of England. The projects funded allow us to focus on early intervention and prevention meaning we will save many more lives as a result.”

Funding has been made available to NHS charities based with 13 ambulance trusts covering the entire UK. Five projects are ready to begin, based with the London Ambulance Service, North West Ambulance Service, South Central Ambulance Service, South Western Ambulance Service, and Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Robert Horton, Programme Responder Manager at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“When the team is responding to an emergency every second counts and our Community First Responders can make the difference between life and death. Having dedicated cars for volunteers which carries additional lifesaving equipment, made possible by the funding from NHS Charities Together, will make all the difference in volunteer availability, the access to volunteering and promotion of the amazing work our volunteers do. Our Community First Responders respond quickly within their community to help people in their time of need ahead of an ambulance.” 

Lyn Strahan, Community First Responder for South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust, said: 
“My husband and I have been Community First Responders for nearly four years. We are part of a great team of local CFRs and together, we are able to respond to a variety of incidents in the local area, with the help of essential equipment. The funding announced from NHS Charities Together will not only provide more CFRs with more lifesaving equipment but in turn it will help to reduce the strain on the ambulance service, it really is wonderful news!”

NHS Charities Together is an independent national charity caring for the NHS. It helps provide additional support to patients, NHS staff and volunteers, working through its 241 member charities based with hospitals, ambulance trusts, community health trusts, mental health trusts and health boards across the UK.

In total NHS Charities Together’s Covid-19 Appeal raised £150 million thanks to the support from Captain Sir Tom and others. Over £118 million has already been made available to our 241 member charities to help patients, staff and volunteers on the ground.


Additional quotes and case studies

CPR and AED training

A cardiac arrest is a time critical medical emergency where the heart stops beating effectively and abruptly. When this happens, blood stops pumping round the body and the brain is starved of oxygen which causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing.

Across the UK, current cardiac arrest survival rates are around an average of 9%, compared to more than 20% in other countries around the world. 

Our 'Saving Lives Together' campaign, launched in 2018, aims to increase early public intervention for ‘out of hospital’ cardiac arrests. 

A spokesperson from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust [SWASFT], said: "We know that CPR saves lives and the more people that learn CPR, the more lives we can save together. 

“Fewer than one in 10 people survive an out of hospital cardiac arrest.  But we know that calling 999, performing hands-only CPR, and using a defibrillator can make a significant difference to someone’s chance of survival. 

“The funding from NHS Charities Together will allow us to educate and train more people across the South West in schools and the community as a whole.”

Mental Health provision

James Wenman, Head of Quality at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust [SWASFT], said:  “As an ambulance service, providing emergency care daily to patients, we know how significant appropriate mental health support to people in crisis can be.  

“The right interventions can lead to reductions in suicide and patient distress and can also, in some circumstances, result in an ambulance no longer being required for that patient, which frees the ambulance and crew up to attend others in need.

“This funding will enable us to appoint a strategic lead in mental health on a two year fixed term basis to lead the development of service improvements for patients with mental health illnesses across our region. They will work with providers, commissioners, patients and the public to develop innovative and collaborative solutions to more appropriately treat patients having a mental health crisis. They will also develop training packages for front line ambulance clinicians to better equip them in dealing with the complex needs of patients.”

Lynn and Phil Strahan (husband and wife, Community First Responders). 

Lynn and Phil live and work in Croyde, a village in North Devon which is popular with tourists and can be difficult to access, particularly during the busy summer months.  They have received CFR training and work with SWASFT to deliver defibrillator training to the local community – they have also helped to secure a defibrillator for the village.  They have had to use their CPR/defibrillator training on many occasions including an incident where a lady came off her horse into the water at Saunton Sands – thankfully she survived.

Lynn and Phil are lucky enough to have the additional kit that will be provided to others through the NHS Charities Together funding but can provide an insight into how much it has helped them to fulfil their life saving role.

Cathy Angell – cardiac arrest survivor

Cathy lives near Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire and at the age of 35 she survived a cardiac arrest.

Cathy stopped breathing while her son was having a riding lesson in April 2018. People around her including a bystander and the owner of the stables, called 999 and began CPR and responders used a defibrillator to keep her alive. She needed emergency heart surgery in hospital, and now lives with an internal defibrillator to regulate her heart rate.

She credits the bystanders’ actions for giving her a “second shot at life” and is an advocate for CPR community

South Western Ambulance Charity logo

South Western Ambulance Charity

The South Western Ambulance Charity, founded in 1995, uses gifted monies to benefit those in our communities who use our service and to improve the welfare of the staff and volunteers of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. 

Our charitable support covers Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire including Bristol and Swindon.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the care that you or your loved one has received from us in the form of a charitable donation please visit our online giving website: Donate to South Western Ambulance Charity | Give as you Live Donate