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Ambulance Watch: 999 trust accused of using volunteer first aiders to distort response targets

PUBLISHED: 06:30 11 January 2014

East of England Ambulance Service Norwich Depot at Costessey.
Ambulance Technician and paramedic with a stretcher.

East of England Ambulance Service Norwich Depot at Costessey. Ambulance Technician and paramedic with a stretcher.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

The region’s beleaguered ambulance service has been accused of distorting response time statistics after it emerged that the NHS trust used volunteer first aiders to stop the clock on thousands of 999 calls.

Community First Responder (CFR) groups were called out to more emergencies last year by the East of England Ambulance Service compared with 2012, according to new figures.

Campaigners called on the ambulance service to stop “skewing” response time figures after it emerged that the organisation was using first responders to help hit targets on attending some of the most life-threatening emergencies.

First responder groups were dispatched to 22,493 emergency calls by the East of England Ambulance Service in 2013, compared with 21,760 call outs across the six counties in 2012.

Calls were made to change national ambulance response targets after it emerged that the arrival of a volunteer first aider meant that the ambulance service could stop the clock, despite a qualified paramedic, technician or emergency care assistant not being on the scene.

The trust is supposed to attend to 75pc of the most urgent calls within eight minutes and get a transportable resource to 95pc of “red” category calls within 19 minutes. However, the service has failed to hit targets in the last year.

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP and health minister, said he was meeting with NHS bosses to change ambulance response targets to stop ambulance trusts from distorting priorities to hit targets.

“I have enormous respect for first responders and they do an absolutely vital role, but they absolutely should not be used to massage statistics to meet targets,” he said.

Denise Burke, prospective parliamentary candidate for North Norfolk and Act on Ambulances campaigner, added: “Community First Responders do an excellent job, especially in rural areas, and should be praised for the valuable work they do to save lives. But it is surprising to hear that the East of England Ambulance Trust include CFR attendances in their overall ambulance service response time figures. This disguises the reality of already poor response times and means that the trust is missing its targets by even more than we have been led to believe.”

There are 65 CFR groups in Norfolk and 60 in Suffolk. The Norfolk groups attended 4,019 call outs last year, compared with 3,788 in 2012. The Suffolk groups attended less 999 calls in 2013 (5,141), compared with 5,861 the year before.

Lorna Hayes, regional community partnership manager for the ambulance service, said: “I am very proud to have our CFRs out there helping the ambulance service. They work extremely hard and make a massive contribution to their communities. We always need more help and you can make it your New Year’s resolution to join us and gain the skills to give something back to your local area.”

Rachel Hiller, coordinator of the Diss Community First Responder group, added that she did not believe the trust was taking advantage of volunteer responders.

“We stop the clock, but we never see it like that. We see it as being there and helping colleagues in the ambulance service to bring help as fast as possible. Over the last six years we have found them very nice to deal with. They automatically dispatch another resource, but we do not know what it is going to be, it could be a single paramedic or a double staffed ambulance,” she said.

For more information about the CFR scheme, visit


  • More cheap RIGHT WING propaganda from a Conservative Govt trying to dismantle the NHS. CFRs are an INTEGRAL part of the NHS Ambulance Service. CFRs are CFRs - not volunteer first aiders. They are a category of the NHS Ambulance Trust. Some have medals. Some have multiple cardiac arrest resuscitation successes under their belts. Wouldn't you love to live in a country where there was an NHS Ambulance resource stationed in every village or 5 mins away? WELL DO! This successful idea does not fit well with Tories who have been told to tenderise the public up for multi-million pound sell-offs to private companies some of them have shares or director status. And..what happens when the Ambulance Services are strapped of cash? How does the Govt help? It FINES them (takes their money away) so you get even less service and have to rely on Non-paid professional voluntary services. Don't be blind to this attempt to do down your Ambulance Trust. Support them. Become a CFR andor only ring 999 when it is life threatening.

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    David Gregory

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • I personally think that this is a totally inaccurate representation of Community First Responders. I am a CFR and volunteer a fair bit of my time. By completing the training course and attending many calls, I have learnt and experienced that not every call needs treatment. CFR's are great for reassuring patients and families when they are distressed. Even when a crew has arrived the CFR will still attend to offer help to the crew if it's needed or to the families so that they understand what will happen. A CFR are used for life threatening calls and are adequately trained by paramedics! They are competent enough to save a life in the event that it is needed. Whilst at a call, we don't get there and 'stop the clock' the ambulance control centre sometimes will not even know if we are on scene if the CFR has no time to update them until we ring to let them know we have left. When the crew arrives the take a set of observations. If this is a first set they have nothing to compare. If a CFR has gathered a set before the crew arrives then there is something to compare with. This in turn can allow quicker treatment. We will Carry out a primary and secondary survey find out all the details and gather medications together, again making things quicker so that the patient gets to hospital faster. Not all CFRs are just 'first aider a' some CFRs arewere paramedics and nurses. Some have worked in other health care settings, some are qualified in more advanced first aid as they volunteer with other organisations. This is a true representation of a CFR, if you would like to find out anymore about a CFR and the GOOD work we do please, ask away.

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    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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