Volunteers celebrate 15 lifesaving years


Tuesday 14th October 2014 – 1.30pm – Suzie Wheaton.

The Wetton and Alstonefield Community First Responders (CFRs) are celebrating a huge milestone as they hit their 15 year anniversary.

Currently the group, which was the first of its kind in the country, has 13 active responders but has seen over 50 responders being trained in the vital lifesaving skills over the years. Collectively the group has attended to over 2,000 potentially lifesaving emergency calls within their local community.

CFRs are members of the public from all walks of life who give up their spare time to help make a difference in their communities. The Wetton and Alstonefield CFRs are no different and include an IT consultant, farmers, cleaners, grandmothers, a bee keeper and an architect to name but a few.

All CFRs are trained by the Ambulance Service to a nationally recognised level and help to reach those people suffering from medical emergencies in the remote rural communities fast, prior to the arrival of an ambulance. In many illnesses or injuries the first few minutes are critical and simple interventions can be performed in order to save lives or prevent disability.

Back in 1999, the then Staffordshire Ambulance Service and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council decided that there was a need to set up the vital response scheme, which was the first of its kind in the UK.

Thanks to a number of volunteers and donations from local businesses the scheme got off to a flying start, and successfully went live on the 19th September 1999 with 10 people being trained initially. David Lovatt, having been one of the original ten, recently completed 15 years of service and so has the distinction of being Staffordshire’s longest serving community first responder.

Following the set-up of the group, a number of responders have moved on but have furthered their medical careers by taking up roles within the ambulance service, such as technicians and paramedics.

For several people within the group, having first-hand experience of the responders after needing their help for themselves or others has inspired them to volunteer.

Sally Stickland, the group’s joint coordinator, has been responding for seven years. She and her husband run a business consultancy from home. Sally used to be a nurse before having children and so it was a good way to use her previous nursing experience. Sally said “Working from home means I can cover a lot of hours for the group. I really enjoy the challenge of using my local knowledge to find the best way to reach the patient – the sat nav doesn’t always give us the best route!”

Ian and Christine Royle have also been responding for seven years. They retired from their jobs as a managing director and IT consultant to move to the Peak District National Park. They fit in responding with running a holiday cottage business at their home and looking after their grandchildren. Ian is the group’s treasurer and does a marvellous job of keeping the finances in order.

CFR schemes are entirely funded by charitable donations. Therefore many CFRs are also seen actively carrying out fundraising events to help raise money. It costs approximately £7,000 to keep the Wetton and Alstonefield scheme running each year. Ian is often very humbled by the thank you letters and donations that he is sent from those within the community.

Victoria Tufail, WMAS Community First Response Manager said: “This milestone is a massive achievement for the scheme. All of those involved with the team, be it responding or fundraising, have undoubtedly gone above and beyond to help their local community.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them for giving up their own time to help others. CFRs are vital in rural communities and it is without doubt that thanks to their efforts, dedication and actions, lives have been saved.”

A Public Access Defibrillator, which has been supported by the local CFRs and the Parish Council, has also now been installed at the Oldie Royal Oak in Wetton. The responder scheme will help to deliver basic first aid and defibrillator training to the local community, alongside West Midlands Ambulance Service.


Pictured One: Responders of the Wetton and Alstonefield CFR scheme
Picture Two: Installation of the defibrillator at the Oldie Royal Oak in Wetton.

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