Pioneering Norwich paramedics need your help

The Norwich-based Advanced Paramedic Response Unit is one of the first in the country to be operated by extended skills paramedics who can use a wide range of emergency equipment and administer special drugs to patients.

Set up in 2009 the trailblazing team is at the forefront of trialling new pre-hospital equipment at the scene of a wide spectrum of accidents and emergencies.

Members of the team, which is part of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), are trained in emergency pre-hospital critical care and can administer emergency care to seriously-ill and injured patients; often performing life-saving techniques and interventions wherever the patient needs it – at home or by a roadside.

Critical care paramedic Chris Neil said: 'We go to normal 999 calls as our primary role, but we have a secondary role in that we carry more advanced equipment and drugs – a lot of the equipment we carry is similar to that in a hospital. We tend to focus on the critically ill. We don't always arrive first on scene. We may find there's a car and an ambulance and they call us on top of that.'

The team operates from an emergency rapid response vehicle, the Norwich critical care car. Recent jobs it has attended include a car crash on Parish Road, Stratton Strawless, at about 8.15pm on Saturday, in which a man, thought to be in his 50s, was treated for chest injuries, and a fire at a flat near Norwich Cathedral on New Year's Eve.

The 80-year-old woman had been watching television in her bedroom at a property in the Queen Elizabeth's Close sheltered housing complex, off St Martin at Palace Plain, when the fire broke out. She was treated for smoke inhalation.

It is hoped that the team's work will persuade ambulance trusts across the country to fund similar response units.

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But the team is becoming increasingly dependant on the public to fund additional equipment and specialist training to ensure it can continue its life-saving work.

Mr Neil, 37, a former air ambulance paramedic who has worked for the EEAST for nine years, said: 'At the moment we need to do a lot of our own fundraising. People might ask why the ambulance service aren't funding it, but we're a new entity and a lot of what we're doing we're auditing to see if what we're actually doing is working.'

This month paramedics from the team held a raffle at Inkbox on White Lion Street, off Gentlemans Walk, Norwich, which helped raise �850 for the team to purchase equipment.

And the fundraising support will need to continue as the team – which currently consists of Carl Stevenson, Steven White, Phil Quinn and Mr Neil – will be increased to eight members in the coming months.

The team have been trialling a new device for treating elderly patients who are short of breath. The device, known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), can be immediately applied to the patient once the paramedic arrives on scene, thus providing life-saving therapy. The initiative is proving extremely successful with 32 patients benefiting from the device in the first six months of the trial.

This particular piece of equipment costs �500 but each time it is used a new mask, costing �50, is required.

The team is also looking to purchase a new monitor which is used for monitoring critically ill patients and costs in the region of �25,000.

Mr Neil said it is vital that the team continues to attract support from the public so it can purchase the equipment needed to help those who need it. He added: 'It means we can support ambulance crews in dealing with critically-ill patients, particularly trauma incidents, where young people involved are normally fit and well.

'The main thing I want to do is make the public aware of what we're about. It's part of the East of England Ambulance Service and we try and provide that initial level of care to assist and support ambulance crews along with the East Anglian Air Ambulance and doctors at the Norfolk Accident Response Service (NARS).'