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.
Over the years the role has changed as Graham explains: “Whilst I still attend the most serious incidents and treat the patient accordingly while waiting for an ambulance or rapid response vehicle, I am now also asked to attend less serious incidents. These incidents may be calls the 999 operator has received that are not deemed as life threatening but do require someone to visit and make some observations. Once this has been carried out I will contact a clinical supervisor who is normally a paramedic or nurse and pass on my findings. A decision is then made as to what action is required, it could be that a front line ambulance is sent, or a doctor will call the patient, or that no further action is needed. Sometimes all the patient requires are the simple things like someone to talk to, a bit of reassurance and their hand held.”
This year Graham has been taking a level 3 Ambulance First Responder qualification; he has now completed 3 out of the 4 modules. The training reflects the changes to the role of First Responder that Graham has reflected upon. Previously training had been focused heavily on trauma and cardiac arrest; the new course includes conditions such as dementia and dealing with more complex medical conditions in greater depth than before.
In 2018 Graham attended 148 callouts – 48 in Maiden Newton, 18 in Cattistock , the rest further afield. The calls ranged from falls, difficulty in breathing, fitting, trauma, strokes, chest pains, cardiac arrest and some hand holding!!
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