By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
The first of two Community First Responder schemes to be set up to supplement Shetland’s ambulance service goes live on Monday.
The North Mainland scheme attracted 10 volunteers to become first responders, whose role will be to provide a fast repsonse to a medical emergency in their area. Co-ordinated by the ambulance service, they will be first on the scene after a 999 call, providing assistance in the vital first minutes before the ambulance arrives.
The 10 volunteers have now completed two and a half days training organised by Scottish Ambulance Service community resuscitation officer Alan Knox. All passed their examinations and are ready to start as first responders, although further training as well as frequent refresher courses are planned. In addition they will go out on secondments with the Lerwick-based ambulance in order to become more involved and experienced with the service.
Mr Knox said: “I’m really pleased with the level of interest [in the scheme]. All the people involved are very pro-active and keen to go. They are the right calibre of people.”
The volunteer medics in the scheme will be dispatched at the same time as the ambulance. They are expected to manage life-threatening emergencies, but are not allowed to treat or transport the patients.
First responders will have their own vehicle, a Ford Fiesta van, based at Brae, and be supplied with high-visibility jackets and workwear.
Crucially they will be fully equipped with the latest medical gear which can be fitted into a rucksack. This will include a state of the art defibrillator to be used on heart attack victims, a lightweight device which issues spoken instructions. In the case of a heart attack, first responders will be expected to start CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and defibrillation before the ambulance arrives. They will be in touch with the ambulance service throughout.
Mr Knox said: “The first responders will make a positive difference before the ambulance arrives.”
First responders will also be equipped with pagers and roaming SIM cards, whereby all the phone networks can be used on one mobile phone.
A similar first responders scheme in the South Mainland is expected to go live later this month. An initial meeting in Sandwick netted six volunteers, who have taken part in basic training. They will have an identical van, based at Sandwick.
Mr Knox said more application forms have now been received for both the North and South Mainland. He said: “This is just the beginning. We have still got more work to do.”
He stressed that the scheme was an enhancement to the ambulance service, and should not be seen as replacing it. “We are looking at further developments down the line in Shetland.”
An announcement about the future of ambulance provision in the isles will be made at the May meeting of Shetland NHS Board.
The Community First Responders schemes have been set up in the wake of public concern that there is only one ambulance equipped to A&E standards in Shetland. This came to light when a heart attack victim in Sandwick was driven to hospital by a porter after his wife made two 999 calls.