THE Welsh Ambulance Service is paying tribute to its 3,000-strong network of volunteers as part of Volunteers’ Week.
Almost 3,000 Community First Responders and 270 Ambulance Car Service drivers work alongside frontline ambulance staff to help deliver high quality healthcare and services to the people of Wales.
Community First Responders are volunteers who give up their spare time to attend 999 calls and give first hand emergency care to people in their own community.
They are trained by the Welsh Ambulance Service to administer basic first aid, oxygen therapy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of a defibrillator.
First responders do not replace the normal response of a paramedic in a rapid response car or an emergency ambulance, but if they are first on scene, they will support the patient until emergency crews arrive.
Mick Giannasi, Chairman of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Community First Responders work day and night to provide an initial response to patients suffering from life-threatening and potentially life-threatening conditions.
“They play an important role in making sure patients receive appropriate help quickly and efficiently, and we are personally proud to be associated with such dedicated life saving schemes across Wales.”
The Ambulance Car Service is part of the Patient Care Service, and is made up of volunteer drivers who use their own cars to provide transport to and from hospital appointments for patients who have limited mobility but are able to get in or out of a car.
Mr Giannasi added: “As volunteers they support the service by transporting hundreds of patients a day across Wales.
“Some work every day, others one day a week; many are retired and work on a part-time basis. Whatever their contribution, we would like to recognise their dedication and commitment.”
The Trust is grateful for the dedication of its volunteers, and values the importance of recognising their efforts.
In December, the Trust presented its inaugural Dr Jennifer Bucknell Memorial Award, designed to recognise an individual or team who have gone the extra mile in their role as a Community First Responder.
The award was inspired by Plymouth-born Jennifer Bucknell, who was studying medicine at Cardiff University when she died from an undiagnosed heart condition in 2011, three weeks before her final exams.
The 23-year-old, a keen rower, had been a Community First Responder in Cardiff for five years.
The award was presented to Liz Evans, of Llantwit Major, who was recognised for her actions when a child went into cardiac arrest at a GP surgery.
The Trust also makes an annual presentation of the Gail Williams Award, which recognises individuals or teams who have provided clinical excellence in the pre-hospital setting, and which is sponsored by Michael Williams and his daughters Megan and Sioned in memory of his wife and their mother.
Last August, a ‘Highly Commended’ award was presented to first responders Chris Burge and Dean Williams, who used specially-converted mountain bikes to attend Cardiff Railway Station in March 2013 where an England rugby fan in the city for the Six Nations decider had suffered a cardiac arrest on the platform.
Following successful defibrillation by Chris and Dean, the patient was transferred by ambulance to the University Hospital of Wales where he went on to make a full recovery.
Elwyn Price-Morris, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week we’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all of our volunteers for their work and effort in support of the Welsh Ambulance Service.
“Volunteering requires dedication and commitment, which often goes unnoticed, and it is this kind of effort on their behalf that ensures that across Wales, lives are saved on an almost daily basis.
“Our volunteers are very much part of the whole Welsh Ambulance Service family, and we would like to thank them for the significant contribution they make towards saving the lives of families, friends, neighbours and the general public in Wales.”
The Welsh Ambulance Service will be at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea this Wednesday, June 4 for staff, existing volunteers, clients and members of the public looking for more information on how to volunteer.
More than 30 organisations will be attending the Swansea Council for Voluntary Services (SCVS)-organised event, which runs from 10am-2pm.
Volunteers’ Week is an annual event which takes place on June 1-7, and this year marks its 30th anniversary.
It celebrates the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK and is run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in partnership with Volunteer Development Scotland, Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action.
Visit www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk for more information on volunteering for the Welsh Ambulance Service.