Friday, 24 September 2021

Help your community: be a first responder

HENLEY?S original community first responders are urging more people to join as they prepare to retire.

HENLEY?S original community first responders are urging more people to join as they prepare to retire.

Robert and Jane Aitken signed up to the scheme shortly after it was launched by the old Royal Berkshire Ambulance Service in 2007.

They read about it in the Henley Standard and decided to get involved despite having no lifesaving experience.

Following several months of training, they attended their first 999 calls the following year.

The couple, who have four grown-up children, are stepping down next month due to family commitments but say the role is vital and more volunteers are needed.

Community first responders are sent to emergencies in their area to provide support before paramedics arrive.

They are not trained to the same level as ambulance crew members but can administer first aid and lifesaving treatment such as CPR.

Mr Aitken, who is vice-chairman of Bix and Assendon Parish Council, said: ?I was first to suggest signing up but Jane was very happy to go along with it.

?Our family were amazed as I wasn?t very good with the sight of blood, although Jane used to be a medical artist and knew what all the bits of the body did.

?We?ve dealt with some quite challenging incidents and dramatic cases, including some involving the Thames Valley air ambulance, but the daily reality is quite routine.

?More often than not it?s about having someone there for reassurance as it can be very stressful for patients and their relatives waiting for an ambulance.

?The focus of the scheme is very much on defibrillators and resuscitation. If someone has a cardiac emergency it?s vital to get someone there quickly and with the right kit.

?The Henley group has been present at two successful resuscitations but we could help even more if we had more help.

?We?ve never had enough coverage to have somebody on call 24 hours a day and it would be great if we could achieve that.?

Mrs Aitken said: ?The one thing that really stands out is how incredible the paramedics are at their jobs.

?They were always glad to see us and would sometimes encourage us to stay at the scene to see how they dealt with things.

?Two more people have signed up recently and we thought that was our opportunity to leave, though more volunteers are definitely needed.

?We?re very glad that we did it and I?d wholly recommend it to anyone who can spare the time.?

The scheme, now run by South Central Ambulance Service, is open to anyone who can commit to about 20 hours or more per month.

Training is provided and volunteers must be willing to attend regular refresher courses.

For more information, call first responder Liz Felix on 07970 246512 or email

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