We’re delighted to announce our Board of Trustees yesterday approved £7million 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.

Seven million pounds 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.
• Further training and other practical support for existing community first responders.

Leeds-based Nick Huby, a BT Maintenance Engineer who has been a Community First Responder (CFR) for Yorkshire Ambulance Service for four years and usually works as a CFR for up to 30 hours a week, dedicating an incredible 1,600 volunteering hours during the pandemic, said:

“Saving someone’s life is the best feeling in the world. I am part of an amazing team and I put the people I work with on a pedestal – they are my heroes.”

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.”

Case studies

London Ambulance Service

Funding will support London Ambulance Service’s London Lifesavers scheme by providing:

  • Training for volunteer Community Resuscitation Training Officers, who in turn will provide training within the community to use public access defibrillators (PADs), helping to improve survival rates
  • Engagement and recruitment amongst underrepresented groups
  • Support to increase the number of PADs in London, by providing organisations with information on how to procure their own defibrillators. There are currently over 6,000 defibrillators in London and the ambition is to increase this to 10,000 defibrillators by 2023
  • Implementation of not-for-profit service GoodSAM, which automatically triggers alerts to any nearby cardiac arrests so volunteers can attend and provide immediate life support while the ambulance is en route, and also identifies the location of the nearest defibrillator

Antony Tiernan, Director of Communications and Engagement at London Ambulance Service, who oversees the Service’s volunteering programme, said:

“We’d like to thank the public and NHS Charities Together for this extremely generous funding, which will allow us to recruit and train an additional 60,000 London Lifesaver volunteers and support the introduction of 4,000 more defibrillators around the capital.

“We reach our most critically ill patients in an average of less than seven minutes, however when a patient is in cardiac arrest we know that every second counts. While our medics are on their way, a fast response from a member of the public who has basic lifesaving skills and the confidence to use a defibrillator can literally be the difference between life and death for that patient. By building our army of London Lifesavers, we hope to save many more lives each year.

“As well as providing emergency support, London Lifesavers will also help Londoners in other ways, for instance checking in on older and vulnerable people during cold winters to make sure they are keeping warm and keeping well.”

South Western Ambulance Service

NHS Charities Together funding in the South West will provide:

  • Observation equipment for community first responder volunteers to provide enhanced assessment and patient care;
  • Lifting chairs to community first responders so they can give early assistance to patients who have experienced a non-injury fall, reducing potential complications associated with being on the floor for an extended period of time;
  • Dedicated community first responder group cars to enable wider geographical reach and a swifter response to emergencies;
  • Awareness and training sessions to increase early intervention for ‘out of hospital’ cardiac arrests, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation training for schools and community groups in hard-to-reach areas;
  • Funding for not-for-profit service GoodSAM, which automatically triggers alerts to any nearby cardiac arrests so volunteers can attend and provide immediate life support while the ambulance is en route, and also identifies the location of the nearest defibrillator;
  • Improved services to meet the needs of those patients suffering mental health issues, including training packages for front line ambulance clinicians to better equip them for complex and challenging calls.

Zoe Larter, Head of Charity for South Western Ambulance Charity, said:

“Thanks to support from the public and NHS Charities Together, we are able to go the extra mile for our exceptional staff, volunteer heroes and communities, delivering tangible benefit across the South West of England. The projects funded allow us to focus on early intervention and prevention meaning we will save many more lives as a result.”