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Ambulance Service Celebrates Lifesaving Volunteers

Thorncombe 1

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is celebrating the fantastic vital work of its selfless volunteers across the region who help people in their time of need.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, SWASFT is shining the spotlight on its thousands of volunteer responders who provide essential support to patients throughout the South West.

The volunteers include hundreds of Community First Responders (CFRs) who attend emergenies and care for patients before paramedics arrive, and often save lives.

Rhys Jones, a CFR based in Poole, said: “Sometimes we can be the first person on the scene of a cardiac arrest. Alternatively we may attend older people who have fallen over and need a helping-hand getting up.

“I love giving something back to my community, and being able to help people.”

Sharon Dobson, a CFR based in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, said: “One job I attended last year was a lady with chest pain. Shortly after I survived, she had a cardiac arrest. But having a defibrillator on scene meant we could get her heart beating normally again.

“A couple of months later the same lady approached me in town. She thanked me, and said CFRs make a big difference to local communities.”

Rob Horton, SWASFT Responder Manager, said: “We are extremely grateful to all our amazing volunteers who give up their time to be there when the community calls.

“I am so proud to work with these people who make such a difference to us and our patients. Thank you to you all.”

CFRs are trained volunteers who attend emergency incidents on behalf of SWASFT within their local communities. They respond to particular types of 999 calls where it is essential for the patient to receive immediate lifesaving care. These include conditions such as cardiac arrest, chest pain, breathing difficulties, unconscious patients, fitting and stroke. Their aim is to reach the patient in the vital minutes before the ambulance crew arrives.

Some CFRs also attend incidents in which patients have had a non-injury fall, but are unable to get up. These responders assess and move patients from the floor to a sitting or standing position, using a specialist lifting device and with support from clinicians in the 999 Control Hubs.

Thorncombe First Responders, based in West Devon, are the longest-running group after launching in April 1998.

SWASFT has a range of volunteer responders, including:

  • Community First Responders - volunteers who support their local community by attending emergency calls ahead of an ambulance;
  • St John Ambulance Community First Responders - volunteers who under their work with St John Ambulance, respond within their local community ahead of an ambulance;
  • Fire Co-Responders - retained fire fighters who attend emergency calls on behalf of the Trust, as part of their day to day role with the fire and rescue service;
  • RNLI Co-Responders - life guards who patrol beaches and respond to local incidents;
  • Establishment-based Responders - staff who respond to an incident that may occur during their normal working date, for example in a railway station or shopping centre;
  • Staff Responders - ambulance clinicians who volunteer to attend emergencies in their local communities on their day off.

SWASFT covers one of the most rural areas of the UK, and is committed to providing the population of the South West with the highest standard of out-of-hospital care.

If you are interested in becoming a Community First Responder, please visit NHS Jobs to find out more about SWASFT recruitment in your area.

Notes to editors:

i. The top photo shows Thorncombe First Responders who celebrated their 20th anniversary in April 2018.

ii. The middle photo shows Rhys Jones, a CFR based in Poole, Dorset.

iii. The bottom photo shows George Turner, a CFR based in Lavingtons Wiltshire, who was given a commendation by SWASFT Chief Executive Ken Wenman at the Staff Awards 2018.