VOLUNTEERS are sought to give up their time to be taught first aid techniques that may prove the difference between life and death.
The Community First Responders (CFR) scheme, a partnership between St John Ambulance and the London Ambulance Service (LAS), was introduced in Harrow in April 2009 as a way of giving ordinary people the ability to deploy limited medical skills before paramedics arrive when someone falls ill or suffers an injury.
There are now 20 volunteers and due to the success of the project the Harrow-based scheme is looking for new recruits.
An information evening for potential volunteers is being held at St John Ambulance HQ in Woodlands Car Park off Pinner Road, North Harrow, on Friday March 7 at 7.30pm for anyone interested.
Encouraged people to turn up and learn more is Kier Mahon, of Malvern Road, South Harrow, a volunteer and the CFR coordinator for Harrow.
He said: “I’ve been a first aider at work for the last five years, and I wanted to use those skills to do something more.
“Members of the team have been called to a number of patients such as those with difficulties breathing, chest pains, fainting, diabetic emergencies and in cardiac arrests. We’ve given oxygen, and used our defibrillator as an initial response to patients with life threatening conditions.
“If I walk down the road and someone’s having a heart attack I know I can help that person and that’s what it’s all about.”
The idea is a patient can receive urgent medical assistance quicker from a community responder who lives near to them will aim to arrive in four minutes whereas an ambulance’s estimated response time is eight minutes.
John Jeal, the assistant coordinator for Harrow Community First Responders, said: “Responders can choose whenever they are on duty and we ask for a commitment of about eight to 10 hours a month, and I sent a rota off to LAS’ response centre in Waterloo so they know when there’s a responder on duty.
“Responders cover one of five areas depending on where they live: HA1, HA2, HA3, HA5 and HA7.
“You’re given an Airwave radio handset and a call sign – one of each of the areas – and you radio to the response centre when you start your shift and that way the dispatch operators known when there is a responder available.
“If a call is suitable for a responder, you will get a text message via the Airwave radio.”
Ambulances are dispatched to each 999 call and responders are only alerted if the incident fulfils certain strict criteria.
Responders attend between 30 and 40 per cent of call-outs. They are not sent to trauma incidents like car accidents, to any patient under the age of eight, to patients where the problem is suspected to be alcohol or drug-related or to patients with known psychiatric difficulties.
The volunteers take their kit bag with them and arrive in clearly marked liveried uniform.
They are do not have the ‘blue light’ ability to speed through red lights and must abide by the Highway Code.
Mr Jeal said, unfortunately, responders cannot be reimbursed for petrol used while on duty.
LAS’ ambulance operations manager for Brent and Harrow, Peter Rhodes, said: “When someone’s heart stops beating, every second counts in getting essential and basic life support to that patient.
“If someone living or working around the corner has the skills and equipment, and is dispatched at the same time as our staff, they can reach the patient quickly, giving them a much greater chance of survival.”
Volunteers should be physically fit, work well under pressure, be a good communicator, have held a full driving licence for at least two years, have access to a roadworthy vehicle and they will have to undergo a Disclosures and Barring Services (DBS) check.
The training to become a CFR takes four days, usually held at weekends, and then there a refresher courses throughout the year.
Mr Jeal, joined the scheme after attending an open evening just like the one tomorrow, said: “The other community first responders come from all walks of life and all have different qualities they can bring to the scheme.
“I think the most important qualities are confidence and good communication skills.”
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