Meet Northumberland’s newest life-saving volunteers
New community first responders trained
North East Ambulance Service is hoping the number 13 will prove lucky for the Northumberland area after welcoming its latest group of community life savers.
A plea for volunteers was made by North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) in January this year as part of the Trust’s commitment to train more community first responders (CFRs).
Ian Catchpole, Barry Coulson, Naomi Calder, Rebecca Hewitt, Keith Broughton, Chris Bradley, Danielle Liddle, Anthony Buchanan, Shaun McKay, Craig Silk, Adam Sparrow, Deborah Still and Rachel Lonsdale answered that call.
After completing two days training at Alnwick Fire Station, all 13 are now ready to respond to life threatening emergencies within their local communities prior to the arrival of an ambulance.
Between them, the areas they will cover include Newton by the Sea, Amble, Cramlington, Bellingham, Seaton Deleval, Corbridge, Alnwick, Chatton, Rock and Ellingham, adding to the CFR schemes already established in Berwick, Belford, Wooler, Seahouses and Holy Island.
Following the successful recruitment campaign in Northumberland, NEAS is now preparing to extend an advertisement to the rest of the North East.
Responders are everyday members of the general public who are trained by NEAS in basic first aid and life support. They are provided with oxygen and a defibrillator and are deployed by NEAS to life threatening emergencies, such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, cardiac arrest, and unconsciousness, if they are the nearest resource, followed by the next nearest emergency care crew.
They exist in cities, towns and villages where it may be a challenge for the emergency ambulance to arrive within the crucial first few minutes. Their aim is to provide immediate care to a patient where every second counts; a patient who suffers a cardiac arrest, for example, stands a much better chance of survival if someone with a defibrillator can attend the patient in the first minutes of collapse.
In 2016, there were 189,931 999 calls for the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area. Of those, 26,341 incidents were prioritised as life threatening or potentially life threatening.
Of those incidents, 1,477 were responded to by community first responders.
Two of the new CFRs, Barry Coulson and Rebecca Hewitt, already work for NEAS; both currently work in the Trust’s Operations Centre.
For others, becoming a CFR is a way into the service.
Danielle Liddle, of Corbridge, is a nanny by day as well as working for a private first aid company.
She said: “I decided to volunteer to become a CFR as I would like to extend my knowledge and experience that I have gained as a first aider and to help me progress.
“I would like to join NEAS as a paramedic and I think that being a CFR is a great way into the ambulance service and all of the training and experience from this will help me achieve my goal.”
Also seeing the role as a stepping stone is Chris Bradley, of Cramlington, who is currently working as a sales assistant, whilst volunteering with St John Ambulance in his spare time.
“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to become a paramedic,” he said. “Becoming a CFR will give me the knowledge and experience going forward to achieve my dream.”
Some, like Adam Sparrow and Shaun McKay, are following in the footsteps of their relatives who are already working for NEAS.
Adam, who currently works in the NHS in adult social care, is following his dad, Paul Sparrow, who joined NEAS in September 2016 and works as an Emergency Care Assistant out of Belford Ambulance Station. Paul is also a CFR and has been for the last two years.
Adam said: “I really wanted to be a CFR because of my dad, he definitely inspired me to go for it and learn what it is like to be a paramedic before I apply to be one.
“It is important that people come forward and apply for CFR posts as we can get to patients and help ease the pressure on 999 crews.”
“I’m really looking forward to getting out there and getting started.”
For teacher Keith Broughton, of Rock, the role is an opportunity to add to his skills, complementing his role as a volunteer coastguard rescue officer.
He said: “I think it will compliment my coastguard role perfectly, providing additional confidence when acting as first person on scene in emergency situations.
“Furthermore, living in a rural part of the county, the CFR is such a vital link the chain of survival and I think it’s my civic duty to volunteer.”
Similarly to Keith, Chatton B&B owner Ian Catchpole and Bellingham bar manager Anthony Buchanan see this volunteer role as a vital resource in their communities.
“Chatton is a beautiful village in rural North Northumberland, blessed with many things, but 50 miles from the nearest A&E and not always within easy reach of a nearby ambulance,” said Ian.
Anthony added: “Having a CFR locally could save a life.”
Alex Mason, NEAS Community Development Officer, said: “Our latest cohort of volunteers are a fantastic example of how our community first responders come from all walks of life and volunteer for very different reasons, all with the same goal – to help save a life.
“Being based in the community means they can be on the scene within minutes, administering life-saving first aid while an ambulance is on its way. They complement a range of resources available to support people in their hour of need, including emergency care ambulances, community paramedics and a number of community access defibrillator sites.
“Our community first responders may simply provide vital reassurance to patients and their families, and gather information until ambulance clinicians arrive or in extreme cases such as a cardiac arrest, perform CPR and use a defibrillator to deliver a shock to the person’s heart.
“We were really pleased with the level of interest we received from people who would like to volunteer to become a community first responder. We’ll shortly be advertising again for further afield and look forward to training even more members of the public to help us save lives in their community.”
As well as the CFR schemes, there are also more than 75 community public access defibrillators (CPAD) across Northumberland, with hundreds of members of the community trained by NEAS to undertake basic first aid.
Community first responders often help to deliver this training. Over the last year, more than 100 hours were given by CFRs to help train nearly 2,000 members of the community across the North East.