Volunteers aid ambulance service

EAST Anglian volunteer ambulance crews got to many winter emergencies first – before the paramedic crew arrived.New figures show that the St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross crews dealt with 367 GP Urgent calls in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, between December 15 and February 28.

By Tracey Sparling

VOLUNTEER ambulance crews got to many winter emergencies before the paramedics arrived, according to new figures which reveal how much charities helped the NHS.

St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross crews dealt with 367 GP Urgent calls in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, between December 15 and February 28.

They also acted as a first response to 32 emergency calls because they were the closest medical resource to the scene of the incident when the 999 call came in.


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The figures show how voluntary societies played a part in helping the East Anglian Ambulance Trust meet its response time target of reaching 75 per cent of life-threatening calls within eight minutes by the end of March.

It comes as NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp announced that 28 of the country's 32 ambulance services are now hitting the new response time targets, partly helped by such partnerships.

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"This has been a difficult year when people have worked very hard – and very successfully – to meet rising demand. The sheer pressure of work means that what they have achieved is all the more impressive," he said.

"Improvements in services for patients have also been made by the creation of new partnerships between the NHS, local authorities and the private and voluntary sectors."

Paul Henry, assistant director of operations at EAAT, said the voluntary crews played a vital role in helping to deal with the GP Urgent calls which can tie up frontline emergency vehicles for some time.

"It means that our emergency crews are freed up to deal with 999 calls and generally helps to take some of the burden from their shoulders at out busiest time of the year," he added.

James Brownfield, of the St John Ambulance, said: "From our perspective we felt it went extremely well this year. Our crews once again spoke highly of the warm, friendliness, help and support of the EAAT control staff this year.

"Crews out on the road were also not only helpful but fully accepted our presence and on several occasions thanked us. It appeared to be evident that ambulance support during winter pressures is now the norm, and accepted as custom and practice."

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