VOLUNTEER medics in rural Cheshire are waiting to see how North West Ambulance Service responds to criticism over the way it attempted to bring in changes to how they operate.
The health scrutiny committee agreed that community first responders (CFRs) should concentrate on treating heart attack victims but said implementation of the plans was not handled sensitively.
Cheshire CFRs – who are on call to deal with life-threatening situations – are fighting the plans claiming lives will be lost by not allowing them to attend the full range of incidents.
Grahame Andrews, coordinator of Malpas First Responders, said: “We are waiting to see which way North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) will go. At the moment we are still responding at the same level we have always responded and we don’t want that to change.”
The row blew up because NWAS – formed out of a merger of Merseyside, Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria ambulance services – wants to standardise its first responder service. And for health and safety reasons it aims to limit the type of incident to which CFRs are allowed to attend.
But first responder Mr Andrews said his team will lose motivation if they only attend a small number of incidents each year and will come under pressure from the community if they are unable to deal with, for example, horse riding accidents.
MembersŠof the county council’s scrutiny committee agreed 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.
But the review panel concluded NWAS had underestimated how CFR schemesŠwere embedded within their local communities.ŠŠ
Panel chairman Cllr Stephen Mosley: “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.”
The review recommends NWAS engage at the earliest opportunity with local councils to maintain existing schemes and establish new ones.
It should progress proposals to extend CFR by making use of health professionals living in the rural community and enable other emergency service personnel, such as firefighters trained as medics, to respond to incidents.
NWAS deputy chief executive Bob Williams said: “We welcome the publication of the report by the task and finish panel of the Health & Adult Social Care Scrutiny Select Committee for Cheshire. The panel, in principle, has accepted the need to make the changes we have proposed but has raised some concerns that we need evaluate.”