Providing support to first-response emergency
medical care in the Avon Valley of South
Warwickshire in partnership with the West
Midlands Ambulance Service

How it Works

A 999 Call is Made:

When a 999 call is made, the caller will first be transferred to the telephone company operator who will say to the caller "Emergency, which service do you require?". If the caller asks for the ambulance service the operator will then ask the caller for the telephone number they are calling from (in case the call becomes disconnected) and transfers the call to the ambulance control centre.

The call is then prioritised and help is sent:

Help starts as soon as soon as the '999' call is answered by the ambulance control room. The first question asked is the nature of the emergency and the address of where the ambulance is required. As soon as the information is given, a Control Dispatcher will immediately send an ambulance or paramedic crew to the scene. At this point the WMAS computer information system also tells the dispatcher whether there is a Community First Responder on duty in the area. If there is, the Dispatcher will alert the CFR by sending a text message via the WMAS information system. This happens within seconds of the '999' call being made (Note: A CFR will only be sent to emergencies where there is little or no risk to the attendant CFR eg Road traffic accidents are not normally attended).

WMAS Control staff can manage all ambulance and Rapid Response vehicles through a satellite tracking system enabling them to identify the nearest vehicle. As Community First Responders show on this system initially as a static resource when on duty, the Control Dispatcher can quickly see how near Responders are to an emergency and how long it will probably take them to get there. Concurrent with identifying the nearest respondents, staff at WMAS Control Centre will continue to talk to the caller to establish important information on the nature of the accident or illness, patient's condition and age etc. They will then be able to advise the caller on ways to help the patient, such as ways to curb blood loss, look after an unconscious patient or perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

The Community First Responder's mobile phone or radio alert them to the call-out:

As soon as the duty Community First Responder receives a call-out, he or she will stop what they are doing and reply with a short message, either text or verbal, indicating they will be on route. This confirms to the Dispatcher and the ambulance crew that a Community First Responder is attending. All Community First Responders arrive at the patient's location complete with emergency medical equipment and wearing Community First Responder uniform including a high visibility jacket. While driving to incidents the Community First Responders are expected to comply with law including the Highway Code.

The call from Control tells the Community First Responder the address of the incident and gives brief details of the patient’s condition. Community First Responders can either attend the incident in pairs or sometimes alone. They can call directly by relay from Control to the attending ambulance or Rapid Response Vehicle which is en route to the incident with flashing blue lights and sirens. Community First Responders can speak to Control at any time to seek medical help or advice if required.

On arrival, the Community First Responder will have all the equipment and training necessary to manage the patient in the first few critical minutes before the ambulance or Rapid Response Vehicle arrives. Often the Community First Responder may not actually be required to do anything other than reassure the patient and make the ambulance service is able to find the incident location. However, a Community First Responder can save lives, for example by providing defibrillation, airway opening procedures or simply treating choking. A Community First Responder will always be backed up by an ambulance or Rapid response Vehicle as soon as possible.

After the incident:

Support for the Scheme volunteers and analysis of the impact of the support scheme in the community is an important issue to the Avon Valley Community First Responder Scheme. Community First responders will record information about the treatments they give and their efforts and will meet regularly to review all incidents, share their experience and knowledge and review their performance. The Community First Responders are supported by the WMAS Community Response Manager, a full-time paramedic, who also provides close liaison between the individual community response schemes. Within the Scheme the Scheme Coordinator liaises directly with WMAS Community Response Manager and WMAS support staff. This support scheme is further supported by the WMAS Community First Responder Training Manager who coordinates training by the WMAS.

West Midlands Ambulance support for Community First Responders:

Whilst on a call, Community First Responders are effectively a member of West Midlands Ambulance Service and have many of the support mechanisms and protections that are afforded to full-time members of the Service. Community First Responders are trained in basic and safe techniques that can save lives. These techniques are rarely associated with causing harm and in true 'life or death' situations, there is little harm that can be done compared with doing nothing at all. Community First Responders are trained to high standards and are expected to operate within the 'Scope of Practice for a CFR' produced by the West Midlands Ambulance Service as part of its CFR Framework. All Community First Responders are indemnified against accidental injury and third-party liabilities by the West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust. As agents of the ambulance service, they are insured against any medical errors providing WMAS protocols are followed.