THE North West Ambulance Service failed to appreciate that its proposals to constrain the activities of community first responders would be seen as a threat to life-saving services.
This is the conclusion of a Cheshire County Council Scrutiny Review following a three-month investigation into concerns that NWAS changes to the system had caused ‘considerable distress’ within local communities.
Cheshire Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee emphasise that the volunteer responders are critically important in delivering rapid initial treatment to life threatening conditions – particularly within rural communities.
“Many people in Cheshire owe their lives to the skills and dedication of these volunteers – held in the highest regard within their communities,” the committee concluded.
MembersŠagreed that NWAS had no option but to undertake a fundamental review of CFR schemes and had acted appropriately in “drawing a line in the sand” on the operation of individual schemes.
“In doing so this had inevitable consequences for issues concerning skills, equipment and training,” says the report.
But the review panel concluded the NWAS had completely underestimated how CFR schemesŠwere embedded within their local communities.Š
“It failed to appreciate that any proposals to constrain activities would be perceived locally threat to life-saving services – especially as NWAS response times in these areas had been historically poor.
“The panel is concerned at this lack of sensitivity, failures in engagement and consultation and the lack of trust board involvement.”
Panel chairman, County Councillor Stephen Mosley, said: “Sadly, the NWASŠhave been heavy handed in introducing change to a much prized voluntary service in areas where its own response times had been historically poor.
“Without doubt there are some important lessons to be learned for the future. I hope that this report will lead to better co-operation and understandingŠwhich will benefit bothŠthe CFR scheme and the people of Cheshire. “
It review recommends that the NWAS should engage at the earliest opportunity with local councils to identify target areas for the maintenance of existing schemes and the establishment of new ones.
It should progress the proposals for CFR+ using Primary Care resources and for co-responders with other emergency services, should review engagement and consultation strategies and their implementation.
And should establish regular reporting mechanisms on performance for the two new unitary councils for Cheshire.
Changed introduced by theŠambulance servicesŠinvolved changes to the responderŠrole, equipment, dispatch criteria, training and the use of blue lights and sirens.