Ambulance Trust Considers Asking The MILITARY And Community First Responders To Drive Their Ambulances

The East of England Ambulance Service is trying to making provisions for what it expects will be another busy winter with limited resources

Wednesday 8th August | by Cop(ex) | @ES_Humour  


The East of England Ambulance Service held “early discussions” about the prospect of volunteer community first responders driving emergency ambulances in a bid to ease the current pressure that the Trust is under.

The news follows reports which were made public by an email that was seen by the Health Service Journal.

Community First Responders (CFR’s) provide first aid in all kinds of medical emergencies, often arriving at the scene to give life-saving help before an emergency ambulance arrives.

East of England Ambulance Service Senior staff said that it wanted feedback from its team of dedicated volunteers in relation to how they could potentially be utilised including driving emergency ambulances, albeit NOT on ‘blues-and-twos’.

It has been reported that the Trust has also considered requesting the assistance of the military in order to cover staff shortages.

Apparently, the CFR’s would only be used in “low acuity patient” cases – but what would happen if the patient suddenly deteriorated and needed to be ‘blue-lighted’ to hospital?


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The trust, which is struggling to cope with the demand based on the resources which it has been given, told the Health Service Journal it would consider using “other emergency services and the military” to plug gaps this winter, adding it would be criticised if it did not consider such measures.

An email from managers to staff this week allegedly said:

“The senior leadership group want to obtain feedback from CFR groups on the potential utilisation of CFRs in supporting double crewed ambulances and attending low acuity patients where the CFR could then potentially drive qualified crew members and patients to the appropriate care home.

“This option does require the driving licence holder to also hold C1 on their licence which allows the holder to drive vans up to 7.5 tonnes.”

Many paramedics have expressed concern about the prospect of CFR’s driving ambulances.

The Watford Observer has reported that some paramedics have cautioned:

“Does it pose a risk to patient safety? Without a doubt. What happens if the patient suddenly deteriorates and needs to be blue lighted to hospital?

“The paramedic in the back can’t do it. They need to be attending the patient. The staff are very against it. As a paramedic you want to be working with someone who is qualified and knows what they are doing.

“I have never heard anything like this in all my years.


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“CFRs fulfil a very important role in their respective communities, but they should be there in their communities, not on frontline ambulances.

“I told colleagues at other trusts about the plans and they were absolutely horrified.”

Community First Responders are there to provide assistance to those with a medical emergency, and most importantly to start and maintain the chain of survival in cardiac arrest patients until a fully equipped ambulance arrives.

The schemes were originally envisaged for rural areas where emergency medical services response is likely to be delayed beyond the approximate 8–10 minutes during which a cardiac arrest is likely to become irreversible.

The schemes have since expanded to more populous areas, where the benefit of early intervention can still prove life saving, and the volume of people available to ambulance control assists them with meeting response time targets.

Examples of first responders include “co-responders” (police or fire service), members of staff of a shopping mall or other public place, members of a first aid organisation, lifeguards, community first responders, and others who have been trained to act in this capacity.

Employees of the statutory ambulance services may also act as first responders whilst off-duty.

Let us know what YOU think in the comments below – good idea or bad idea? If you are a CFR, then let us know in the comments what you think about this idea.

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  • As a former CFR I’m so against this. I received 24 hours training and realised my role was to do what I could until the qualified staff arrived. I then assisted as I could under their supervision.

    That is a CFRs role.

  • I agree – I became a CFR to help my community – not to run all over the western part of my county attending jobs.

  • No disrespect to the boys & girls at the sharp end of EEAST, but the management have been relying on the Police to patch up the gaps for far too long, and it cannot continue.
    Only yesterday I S136’d a male and, as per protocol, called for an ambulance to take him to a S136 suite. A mere 90 minutes later a private ambulance turned up and promptly told us they were not insured to convey patients sectioned by the Police. Another hour passed and a supervisor from Ambulance Control rang me direct to gave us a choice, transport the patient in a police van, or wait up to 6 hours for another ambulance, but even then they could not guarantee it would not be diverted, or another private ambulance that could not take the poor guy anyway.
    In the end the end we had no alternative but to place him in the cell of a Police Van for a 50 mile trip to the nearest S136 suite. I am no psychiatrist, but I am pretty certain this did not help him at all.

  • I’m a CFR and I agree we are not qualified for this. Maybe in desperate times but surely there can’t be more ambulances than qualified people ?.

  • I’m a current CFR I’m all for helping out in anyway I can I don’t think using non blue light trained volunteers to drive ambulances is a good idea, this I feel increase stresses on everyone concerned, as already mentioned what if the patient deteriorated unlike myself who is blue light trained this wouldn’t be an issue but most certainly is for non trained volunteers, either train them and then perhaps they can use it for responding from Home also or don’t use them.

    Lee G

  • As a CFR, student Nurse and EMT I feel that this could be feasible if those who help the community as CFR have some sort of medical background and a criteria will have to be met. I currently work with nurses, paramedics, Techs who all do the CFR role to help the community in their spare times. People like this could be suitable to drive an ambulance if the need arises. I agree that as a CFR, the training is very limited and unless you have the experience and training in stressful and potentially life threading situations you could put the CFR in danger as well as the patients. If this process was policed correctly it could potentially work?

  • i think it be good idea in the cat 1 calls to free the crew up iwell be happy to help the crew out any way or form any time

  • I think this would be pointless. The only time this would be beneficial to any Ambulance trust, would be to allow experienced CFR’s to enhance their skills and blue light train them. This way, should a patient deteriorate on a LAT job; they could be blue lighted by an Enhanced CFR with blue light training. I am a serving CFR and have been for two years.

Let us know what YOU think in the comments below!