Cattistock and Maiden Newton First Responders came into being in 2008. A First Responder’s primary role is to bridge the gap between a telephone call to emergency services and the arrival of an ambulance, delivering basic life support and defibrillation to those in cardiac arrest, and providing support to patients experiencing other medical problems at their time of need. To someone who has had a heart attack or stroke, time is of the essence, literally every second counts, which is why in rural locations like Cattistock having a First Responder resource is so important as an ambulance cannot possibly take less than 20 minutes to get here from Dorchester.
When the scheme was first set up we had six or seven volunteers. Over recent years the number of volunteers has dropped year on year primarily because people moved out of the area and it has proved difficult to recruit replacements. Today we are down to one volunteer – fortunately the one, Graham Paget – is normally on call every night and every weekend so he provides a fantastic amount of cover by himself. In fact he does more call outs by himself than many schemes manage with half a dozen volunteers.
In 2019 Graham attended 131 calls (of these 36 were from Maiden Newton, 14 from Evershot and 11 from Cattistock), and travelled over 1,200 miles. This is down slightly from the previous year due to Graham having to take 7 weeks off to recover from a knee injury. Significantly during this time there was no other Responder cover in our area. All the calls he attends on behalf of SWASFT are automatically sent to his pager via a computer system at the clinical hub in Exeter. The computer system looks to find the closest available resource which could be an Ambulance, a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) or a Community First Responder. Depending on the type of call, one or all resources, may be sent to the call location. The types of calls are put into categories from 1 to 4 depending on the severity of the call. These are known as CAT 1, CAT 2 etc.
CAT 1: calls are from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries such as cardiac arrest, serious allergic reaction, and catastrophic haemorrhage. These types of calls are time critical and require the fastest response possible. Resources may well be diverted from other calls to attend these. 18% of Graham’s calls this year were CAT 1.
CAT 2: Emergency calls such as respiratory problems, diabetes, epilepsy & fitting, strokes, acute coronary syndromes. These are all time critical conditions that require a quick response. CAT 2’s are the most common calls and accounted for 54% of his calls this year.
CAT 3: Urgent calls but not as time critical as the above. 20% of Graham’s calls were CAT 3
CAT 4: Less urgent calls. These maybe from people who have had a non-injury fall and are unable to get up. They are low priority calls and a resource will be allocated when available. 8% of Graham’s calls were CAT 4.
In March Graham was awarded Responder of the Month for the whole of Dorset
Last year Graham took part in a trial for SWASFT when they looked at introducing the use of Raizer chairs. A Raizer chair is a battery operated mobile lifting chair that helps bring a fallen person up to an almost standing position. The aim of the trial was to look at ways the Trust can respond faster to people who have had a non injury fall but are unable to get themselves off the floor. The trial has been a great success and Graham has been able to use it many times to get patients back on their feet or back in bed without the need for an ambulance.
On a practical note – Graham is reimbursed for his mileage – the annual First Responders quiz which is held in the autumn in the Fox and Hounds is the fund raising event I organise to support his role. It would of course be wonderful if we could provide a bit of back-up to Graham. Anyone who is interested in becoming a Volunteer Ambulance First Responder can apply via the NHS jobs website: www.jobs.nhs.uk.
If you have any problems finding the right place on the website please contact me: Julian English