There have been some Social Media comments about recent events surrounding people in Selsey having to wait a lengthy time for an ambulance to arrive.
This article is designed to clarify the situation as to the role of the Selsey Community First Responder (CFR) team and how it supports the local community.
Firstly to become a CFR you need to have time to contribute. The role is completely unpaid and voluntary. The Responders are selected at interview by SECAMB (South East Coast Ambulance Service) who are responsible for the training ( candidates must pass an initial 5 day intensive course to qualify to become a CFR plus an annual recertification) and on-going training to ensure that they are compliant with the very latest health regulations ensuring that patients are properly protected. Everything must be ‘in-date’ in order that the Ambulance Trust is able to prove compliance should something go wrong and to show that everything has been done to protect patients.
The primary function of a CFR is to save lives. If someone’s heart stops (Cardiac Arrest, CA), unless oxygen is sent to the brain within 7 minutes the chances of full recovery reduce by 10% every minute over this time. For that specific emergency, we are highly trained to resuscitate a CA patient and provide quality CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation).
CFR’s are assigned to a medical emergency by the SECAMB Call Centre following a 999 call by a member of the community depending upon Call Centre’s assessment of the emergency call.
Ambulances can take over 20 minutes to get to Selsey even at the highest alert level. Over the past year, response times have been just under 7 minutes by CFR’s. This means we have to be mobile towards an incident within a minute of receiving an alert. In turn that means that we have to be available for set times, so we ‘sign on’ for say an 8-hour shift.
The minimum commitment required of a CFR is to be on call is 20 hours per month. On average our CFR’s have made themselves available for 20 hours per week for the past 3 months. To be ready for a ‘shift’ we have to be in uniform, awake and all our kit checked, cleaned, sterilised and ready for immediate action.
If there is a need for attendance at an incident that does not involve severe risk to life, we may be sent if there is not an ambulance within sufficient distance to attend within 18 minutes. In this case we have the equipment to restart the heart of a patient should their condition deteriorate and to carry out observations to help the ambulance crew assess the severity of the illness. We can also carry out some interventions, for example if there is a bleed, shortness of breath or likelihood of a heart attack. Our job is to bridge the gap between the patient call and the arrival of the ambulance. We do attend trauma with children, however we are not qualified to attend Road Traffic Collisions or Obstetrics.
So, if someone becomes ill in Selsey (but not life-threatening) and there is a CFR on duty, we may be sent to assist. In that case we will do all we can to make the patient comfortable and be there in case things take a turn for the worse.
So to summarise, the CFR team is here for the residents of Selsey. We put in as much time as we are able to support saving lives. The job is sometimes highly stressful and is only rewarded by the thanks and appreciation of the people we help.
The Scheme is totally dependent upon donations from the Selsey community at large as we receive no financial assistance from the either the ambulance authority (SECAMB) or the NHS. Whilst SECAMB are responsible for the recruitment and training and on-going assessment of the Responders, our scheme is responsible for providing everything else, from vehicles, uniforms and medical equipment including defibrillators for use by the Responders……’keeping our Responders on the road’
Every penny received is invested back into the Scheme as we exist purely as a result of individuals volunteering their time.
Thanks to the generosity of the Selsey community at large, the Scheme has been able to procure and install 13 public access defibrillators in the town, to date, one of the highest concentrations of public access defibrillators in any town. Our hope is that anyone suffering a cardiac arrest in the community is never going to be far away from a defibrillator that anyone can grab and use. They are simple to use and the Scheme is available to provide public demonstrations to train people in CPR to help them to feel confident to ‘step forward’ and help someone in trouble rather than ‘step back’.
If anyone feels like they would want to join our team, we would love to have more CFR’s (please contact firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance). Despite the challenges, there are moments when it is highly rewarding –when we make a difference with a patient. We’re here to save lives – every second counts.