Community First Responders seeing more patients that before

Monday, 16 August, 2010

Patients in Cumbria and Lancashire in life-threatening emergencies are getting more help in the first few critical minutes than ever before with the set up of a dedicated community first responder desk.

The desk has sole responsibility for the North West Ambulance Service's volunteers, known as community first responders, who are trained to attend certain emergency calls where time can make the difference between life and death. It is based in the emergency control centre at Broughton, near Preston, Lancashire.

Since it launched on 1 August, first responders have been activated to 268 incidents compared with 148 incidents during the same period last year (1 August and 13 August) - an increase of 81%

Responders were previously activated by the ambulance emergency control centre but not by a dedicated dispatcher which meant they were not utilised as often as they could be.

Typically, first responders are sent to help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest, chest pains, difficulty breathing, allergic reactions, diabetic and epileptic collapse and choking. Carrying basic first aid equipment, oxygen and automated external defibrillators - machines that can restart the heart by providing electric shock - means responders are ready to drop whatever they are doing and give help to patients before ambulance crews arrive.

Acting Community Resuscitation Manager, Mark Evans, who is responsible for the 1250 community first responders in Cumbria and Lancashire, said: "Considering all first responders have the potential to save a life, the 81% increase in activation is an inspiring figure.

"The dispatcher on the first responder desk assesses all incoming emergency calls and determines the suitability of sending a first responder. Given that first responders live in the communities they volunteer in, they are likely to be much closer than an ambulance crew and can provide life-saving help in the first few vital minutes, which in instances such as cardiac arrest can provide a better, long-term outcome for the patient.

"In addition to improved activation to emergency incidents, the focus on first responders has already seen improved communication between the ambulance service and our volunteers who have all feedback positive thoughts on the change. Although diffusion and debriefing after traumatic and difficult incidents was already in place, the focused desk will ensure these welfare facilities are more readily available to the volunteers."

Lead Dispatcher for the desk, Allan Archer, who is also a first responder, said: "It is different to dispatching ambulances as we are dealing with resources that have intermittent availability, scattered across the area and we don't know the exact location of each person. Plus, first responders are going about their normal business at the same time as being available to go to incident, which means that we have to be much more dynamic.

"As a first responder myself, I have always been pro-active in dispatching First Responders, so I am extremely pleased that there is now a specifically focussed and devoted desk within the emergency control centre, giving first responders the opportunity to save more lives."

NWAS is responsible for around 1400 first responders across the region. The desk will take on responsibility for Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside's first responders by the end of 2010

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