Life-saving training will be offered to volunteers across Harrow in a bid to improve emergency response times.

The London Ambulance Service is calling on residents to work alongside paramedics, to speed up treatments for life-threatening conditions like cardiac arrests and severe respiratory problems.

After intense training on the First Person on the Scene course, an ambulance community responder (ACR) could be expected to restart a dying neighbour's heart using a defribrilator, before handing over to the professionals.

They would not be asked to attend traumatic calls such as road accidents or incidents that could compromise their safety, but could be dispatched to medical emergencies involving anyone over the age of eight.

Ambulance crews are set a target of eight minutes to attend medical emergencies, but Sean Brinicombe, Pinner ambulance operations manager, is confident response times could be more than halved under the scheme.

He said: "When someone's heart stops beating, every second counts in getting essential and basic life support to that patient.

"Our ambulances already reach a majority of patients in a life-threatening condition in less than eight minutes, but if someone living or working around the corner has the basic skills and equipment, and is dispatched at the same time as our staff, they can reach the patient even faster - giving them a much greater chance of survival."

Leaflets will be posted through letterboxes across Wealdstone and Stanmore from today outlining the details of the plan.

It asks that applicants have had a full and clean driving licence for a year and states prospective ACR volunteers would need to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check.

But John Newman, a St John's Ambulance response lead, says other traits are a must.

He said: "This is a great opportunity for community-minded people to make a difference by learning how to save lives.

"Volunteers need to be extremely reliable and trustworthy, good under pressure and able to remain calm in an emergency situation. However, they will not be responding to calls on blue lights and sirens, and they will not be sent to incidents where their personal safety is threatened."

Open evenings about the proposals are expected to be held on Tuesday (March 24) at Harrow St John HQ, Woodlands Open Space Car Park, and Wednesday, April 1, at St John's Church House in Old Church Lane - both from 7pm.

For more information call Marian Thompson at St John Ambulance on 020 7258 7025 or visit .