CONCERNS raised by community first responders in Cheshire over the future of the life-saving service they provide are to be probed at a meeting next week.
The responders, who are active in Malpas, Tattenhall and Farndon, say the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) is planning to standardise the service responders offer across the region.
They claim this will mean a reduction in the help they are able to offer to their communities in Chester district including incidents involving children, falls and traumatic injuries.
The responders argue they will no longer be able to deal with pain relief, cardiac related problems and diabetic emergencies.
They say they are already trained to a much higher level than is proposed by the ambulance service and their training has increased with the needs of the casualties in their area.
Treatment and support is provided to people while they wait for an ambulance to arrive and the responders say they aim to prevent the situation worsening and promote recovery.
To withdraw the level of service and equipment they can operate for no other reason than to standardised training across the north west is ''unacceptable'' they insist.
Chester's responders believe that all responders across the country should be trained to their level or higher in order to give the best possible service to local communities.
Their concerns are backed by representatives of parish councils in the district.
Medical director of the North West Ambulance Service, Kevin Mackway-Jones, argues that international research has shown that if the victim of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is defibrillated immediately their chances of survival are 85%.
Community first responders can provide this, particularly where the emergency ambulance response might take longer than eight minutes to reach the patient.
Mr Mackway-Jones says most schemes across the country have restricted the role of first responders to the original life-saving aim of attending life threatening calls where the chief complaint is cardiac arrest, chest pain or suspected heart attack in an adult.
This enables emergency life support to be provided before the arrival of a qualified and equipped ambulance paramedic.
“There are a number of other situations in which a community first responder might be thought to make a difference but none are as clear as cardiac arrest in an adult,” he argues.
In these circumstances, a responder will be effective and can make a difference.
On Wednesday, the health and adult social care scrutiny committee will hear: “The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) remains committed to the use of first responder schemes as part of an overall strategy to deliver safe, effective time-critical care to patients with immediately life-threatening conditions where this will be effective, appropriate and safe.
“NWAS values the skills and dedication of its First Responders to the extent that it has put significant resources and effort into increasing the number of schemes and responders in Cheshire.
“A clinical and operational review has identified areas for change which will allow the efficacy and safety of the schemes to be assured.
“In particular the trust has taken steps that will allow the increased number of first responders to be activated with the right skills and equipment to appropriate cases.”