Cathy Angell 2

Charity support for first responder volunteers will ‘save many more lives’

NHS Charities Together has allocated over £560,000 to the South Western Ambulance Charity to bolster an army of community first responder volunteers and support additional community projects in Somerset and across the South West.

The funding will help to ease the pressure on the service at one of the most challenging times in its history.

The grant is part of £7m which has been allocated by population across all the ambulance charities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the South West, this charity funding will be used to enhance the role of community first responders, who are trained volunteers 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.

The funding comes as ambulance services across the country have been dealing with the additional challenges of the Covid crisis. Thanks to support from the public, 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.”

Robert Horton, Programme Responder Manager at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: When the team is responding to an emergency every second counts and our Community First Responders can make the difference between life and death.

“Having dedicated cars for volunteers which carries additional lifesaving equipment, made possible by the funding from NHS Charities Together, will make all the difference in volunteer availability, the access to volunteering and promotion of the amazing work our volunteers do. Our Community First Responders respond quickly within their community to help people in their time of need ahead of an ambulance.”

NHS Charities Together is an independent national charity caring for the NHS. It helps provide additional support to patients, NHS staff and volunteers, working through its 241 member charities based with hospitals, ambulance trusts, community health trusts, mental health trusts and health boards across the UK.

In total NHS Charities Together’s Covid-19 Appeal raised £150 million thanks to the support from Captain Sir Tom Moore and others. Over £118 million has already been made available to 241 member charities to help patients, staff and volunteers on the ground.

For more information about NHS Charities Together visit

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