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CFRsSouth Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) and South Central Ambulance Charity’s volunteer responders have been shortlisted for a prestigious national award for their contribution to healthcare amid the challenges of COVID-19.

The 1,200-strong team of Community First Responders (CFRs) and Co-Responders are up against four other organisations to be named Outstanding Volunteering Team of the Year at the Helpforce Champions Awards 2021.

Volunteer responders are members of the public trained to support the ambulance service primarily by attending medical emergencies and sometimes providing lifesaving first aid to patients before paramedics arrive.

They also assist with ongoing patient care at the scene and attend more than 30,000 incidents every year. They are funded solely by South Central Ambulance Charity, which provides equipment, training and is responsible for the vehicle fleet of 51. 

CFRs volunteer in their spare time – providing a minimum of 20 hours a month each – and cover a population of more than four million across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

Helpforce was set up by former Marie Curie charity chief executive Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett to accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering in the NHS by collaborating with organisations and rapidly sharing insights and best practice.

Its awards ceremony celebrates the invaluable contributions made by volunteers in the NHS and this year will focus on the role they have played – and continue to play – in managing the impact of the pandemic.

“Our CFRs have weathered every storm this year and still come out in strength to provide essential emergency care for patients across our community,” said Vanessa Casey, Chief Executive of South Central Ambulance Charity. 

Teapot service CFR pic

“With the support of SCAS’s Community Engagement and Training team and the charity, this incredible group has enabled us to reach even more patients, treat and leave even more patients in their own homes and supported the welfare of elderly and vulnerable patients by responding to non-injury falls and concern for welfare calls. 

“These ‘ordinary’ people take on an extraordinary role in their community and, without them, the demand on the ambulance service would be even greater.”

During the pandemic CFRs have continued to respond to emergencies and support patient care but have also taken on new roles such as introducing ‘Teapot’ refreshment vehicles to provide staff with hot drinks while waiting with patients at emergency departments.

They have also volunteered in the control room and headquarters to dispatch CFRs, helped distribute donated goods from hand cream to coffee across ambulance service sites and taken on a variety of fundraising challenges to raise money for additional equipment and new technology.

Volunteers who had to temporarily stand down due to age or their own health vulnerabilities did not give up and found new ways to support SCAS, joining specific bubbles and providing essential support outside of direct patient care such as helping with vaccination rollouts. 

Ms Casey added: “We are incredibly proud of these volunteers who give so much to support their communities and to help others.  CFR vehicle

“Together as volunteers, an NHS Charity and an NHS Trust we are one team providing an excellent emergency service to patients across four counties and we would be so much less without our volunteers.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of Helpforce, said: “2020 and 2021 have seen the NHS and all our healthcare services face one of the biggest challenges in their history and we have seen volunteers step up in their thousands to help.  

“This year we have received a record number of entries for the Helpforce Champions Awards with so many brilliant examples of innovation, great practice, commitment, and real passion for patient care and support for staff across the health and care sector in the UK.

“We want to thank everyone for taking the time to recognise the volunteers and send our congratulations to those who have been shortlisted and we’d like to wish them the best of luck.”

Winners will be announced on 30 October.