‘Lives at risk’ in Sussex after medics pulled off duty

NHS Health service ambulance
NHS Health service ambulance

Lives across Sussex - and throughout the south east - are being put at risk because a number of volunteer emergency medics have been ‘deactivated.’

That’s the warning that is being given by Community First Responders who work alongside the South East Coast Ambulance Service to provide emergency care to people in the region.

The volunteer responders - ‘CFRs’ - are often the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency. Now many say they have been laid off because of what they maintain is a clerical error by SECamb.

One worried responder who has been ‘stood down’ - one of 400 who normally work with ambulance crews in the region - said: “I am deeply concerned, angry in fact, that SECAmb have from last week, stood down scores of CFRs.

“This means they are no longer allowed to log-on and attend calls.

“Steyning and Partridge Green are just two villages that have had their entire teams stood down which means no cover and the worst emergencies now only see a standard ambulance response, which in these areas is 20 minutes. Greater than 10 minutes, as far as cardiac arrest is concerned, the patient stands little chance of survival.”

Community First Responders carry life-saving equipment and drugs and are dispatched by the Emergency Operations Centre at the same time as an ambulance but usually arrive at the scene before the ambulance itself and begin treatment.

He said some responders “were actually attending incidents when they received texts/calls to say they’d been stood down. This I find absolutely appalling and they remain currently off-line due to SECAmb not being able to get their act together.”

The CFRs have to complete annual on-line training records and this year were given a deadline for completion of March 31. The responders say they completed the necessary work on time, but they maintain SECamb has not recognised this and has pulled them off duty.

A spokesman for SECamb said they were committed to working closely with Community First Responders and they had attended more than 11,000 incidents in the region in the past 12 months.

“These volunteers provide a valuable first response to calls prior to the arrival of ambulance crews. We are extremely grateful for the service and commitment they provide to the Trust and their communities.

“Patient safety is at the forefront of everything we do. It is essential that we ensure every CFR who is deployed to a 999 call is fully compliant with all training requirements. This means that every 12 months, CFRs are required to complete assessments in adult and paediatric basic life support, as well as mandatory e-learning.

“CFRs have been made aware of these requirements and the importance of completing regular training and assessment. CFRs who did not complete an annual assessment by the deadline of 31 March 2019 have been temporarily withdrawn from duty to enable them to complete their mandatory assessments. This includes CFRs who have not been active responding for the Trust for some time.

“Any affected responders have been advised of what action they need to take and offered support by the Trust with this process.

“As soon as evidence of completion of the required elements is received they will be able to resume attending incidents within their communities.”