Welsh Ambulance Service trains team of office-based volunteer Community First Responders

22nd August 2019

The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust has completed the training of eight new Community First Responders (CFR) who will carry out their duties while working from their office in central Cardiff. This initiative was launched by employees and strongly supported by management who see this as the way forward for individual organisations to train its staff with life-saving skills and support the wide NHS workforce.

All eight volunteers are employed by the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) and were trained by the Welsh Ambulance Service CFR trainers directly at their central Cardiff office. The First Responders will always respond in pairs and be placed on a rota covering core working office hours (9 am until 5 pm). They can be called to incidents within 1,000 metres of their office and are trained to deal with 702 different accident codes including cardiac arrests, strokes, allergic reactions or chest pains.

This initiative came from NWIS employee Nicola Turner. Having trained as a CFR a few years prior in a previous organisation, she was keen to bring this initiative to NWIS. With a strong interest and support from her management, Nicola appealed for interest among colleagues and received a large number of positive responses.

Nicola Turner, Senior Product Specialist at NWIS said: “Because we work for the NHS, we want to help. When we started talking about this internally, I happened to be called to an incident and our director decided to tag along. He stayed with us outside in the cold, observing, until the incident was resolved. Shortly after, he gave the green light and we started our training. Now we have eight fully trained Community First Responders on call during working office hours.”

Jason Sadler, First Responder Trainer Paramedic at the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “In case of a medical emergency, and in particular in the case of a cardiac arrest, every second counts. Central Cardiff is a busy and crowded area and having First Responders at the ready during working office hours can make a huge difference. They have been brilliant students and I look forward to hearing how they’ll apply their skills.”

Given the success of this programme, NWIS would now like to expand the training to its other offices in the North and West of Wales. Employees have viewed this training as an opportunity to achieve personal goals.

Hafsa Laksari Software Developer at NWIS said: “In the past, I’ve experienced what it was like to have to call an ambulance and I remember the way I felt, not knowing what to do. Thanks to this training, I now have a different mind-set. I now know exactly what I need to do and know that I can help my community. I’m looking forward to my first call. I know it will be daunting, but if I can help someone, this experience will make it a hundred times worth it.”

Training to become a Community First Responder is a significant commitment. It is classroom-based for five days and ‘students’ are also required to complete a total of 15 e-learning modules which last around 20 hours. All CFRs go on a ride-out with an emergency ambulance crew before becoming operational and are required to attend a one-day assessment once a year. CFRs usually work in pairs – those who would like to operate solo need to go through a further assessment.

Andrew Griffiths, Director at NHS Wales Informatics Service said: “Enabling our staff to receive the necessary training to provide medical assistance was an opportunity to allow our team to learn new skills and support our organisation. The Welsh Ambulance Service trainers have been very accommodating and professional and I would recommend other organisations to consider training their staff as First Responders.”