NHS Charities Together allocates £7m to fund thousands of ambulance service volunteers

Photo: NHS Charities Together.

The Board of Trustees from NHS Charities Together has approved £7m in funding to support Community First Responders and other volunteers, who will work with ambulance crews across the UK to help ease the pressure on the service at one of the most challenging times in its history.

The money has been allocated by population across all the ambulance services in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including funding for 60,000 additional volunteers and other community focused projects.

Community First Responders (CFRs) are trained volunteers who are dispatched to emergency incidents when every second counts – for example if someone isn’t breathing, has chest pains, is unconscious or fitting – to administer basic life support until an ambulance service arrives.

Ambulance services across the UK have been dealing with the additional challenges of the Covid crisis. Thanks to support from the public, NHS Charities Together is providing extra support for trained volunteers who will help to reduce hospital admissions by giving the right care in the right place, ultimately helping to save lives.

Funding has been made available to NHS charities based with 13 ambulance trusts covering the entire UK. Five projects are ready to begin, based with the London Ambulance Service, North West Ambulance Service, South Central Ambulance Service, South Western Ambulance Service and Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

A variety of projects will be funded across the UK, including: recruiting an additional 60,000 volunteers; community access to defibrillators to help improve survival rates. Evidence shows that patients who are defibrillated by an out of hospital defibrillator alongside CPR could have a 50% increase in survival rate; dedicated first responder groups’ cars, to enable a swifter response to emergencies; vital equipment such as, tympanic thermometers, automatic blood pressure monitors and pulse oximeters to measure oxygen levels in the blood; training the community to respond to out of hospital cardiac arrest, including CPR training for schools and community groups, with community engagement officers in hard-to-reach areas and further training and other practical support for existing community first responders.

South Central Ambulance Charity has been allocated £410,000 from the NHS Charities Together funding to help support a number of innovative projects across South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS). These include pioneering training programmes for Community First Responders (CFRs) and care home staff, as well as 17 new LUCAS 3 mechanical cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) devices.

The funding means South Central Ambulance Charity can embark on a project that will see SCAS become the first ambulance trust in the UK to train an enhanced group of CFRs to perform diagnostic tests, including electrocardiograms (ECGs) and urinalysis to support accurate and early diagnosis. The region’s CFRs are funded solely by South Central Ambulance Charity, which provides equipment, training and is responsible for the vehicle fleet.

South Central Ambulance Charity will also use the cash injection to provide emergency lifting cushions to CFRs to enable early assistance to patients who have experienced non-injury falls and support the implementation of GoodSAM, an app which automatically triggers alerts to nearby cardiac arrests to whoever is signed on. This means they can attend and provide immediate life support while an ambulance is en route and the app identifies the location of the nearest defibrillator. The funds will also support widespread training in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

In addition, the funding will enable SCAS to provide support, training and equipment for care home staff to enable them to better assess when an ambulance response may be required.

Dr John Black, Medical Director at SCAS, said, “We are extremely pleased to benefit from this generous national funding as it will enable us to further develop a number of areas of work across SCAS to enhance patient care and ensure our CFRs are among the most advanced in the country.

“It will also help with the addition of more advanced LUCAS 3 devices, which can provide high quality chest compressions to patients in need of prolonged resuscitation while freeing up paramedics to carry out other essential patient care during a transfer to hospital.”

Ellie Orton, Chief Executive for NHS Charities Together, said, “At this time of immense challenge for the NHS we are delighted that we can make a real difference and ultimately help save lives by funding wonderful community first responder volunteers within the ambulance service.

“It’s thanks to the overwhelming support of the British public at this difficult time that we are able to fund these vital projects – the NHS has been doing an amazing job but as an independent charity we can provide additional support to help the NHS do more than it otherwise could. A heartfelt thank you to all of our supporters for helping us to keep on caring for the NHS, which will continue to need us now and in future as it recovers from the most challenging time in its history.”