A WIDOW has spoken out over fears her husband’s life-saving legacy is being diminished by decisions made at West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS). Denstone man, Cliff Bailey died on July 30, 2012 aged 64, six years after founding the Dove Valley Community First Responder (CFR) scheme.
His widow, Cynthia, 78, supported Cliff throughout his fund-raising, awareness and response activities – but now fears the potentially life-saving service will disappear altogether. When Cliff died the Dove Valley CFR team was thriving, with trained personnel on call to respond to emergency situations across the rural Uttoxeter area.
Now volunteer numbers have dwindled and previous abilities, such as driving on blue lights and administering drugs, have been withdrawn, limiting the group’s capacity to respond in an emergency. The measures were put in place for CFR groups across the WMAS service area earlier this year.
Cynthia said: “I really think people ought to know what’s happening. Through Cliff I met many CFR volunteers and I’m still in touch with some of the people who have served as first responders over the years. In February WMAS announced responders would no longer be able to use blue lights when responding to a call. The use of drugs has also been withdrawn and their training appears to have been limited to defibrillation and not much else.
“When Cliff started the group in 2006, he was responding by himself for 12 months while other recruits undertook the training. We had a big meeting to launch the scheme and I donated my car as the first response vehicle. There have been several occasions when Cliff was first on scene and had taken life-saving action thanks to the ability to use blue lights in an emergency. “The first responders were always about providing immediate emergency assistance until a paramedic or ambulance crew could get there, which in rural areas like ours, is crucial.
“Within 18 months of Cliff launching the Dove Valley CFR team, the people of the Uttoxeter area had raised enough to get a new fully-equipped first responder car. Since 2006 the generosity of the people in this area have funded the team so they can provide emergency support to the ambulance service at no additional cost.
“Cliff saved lives. When he died, people were crammed into the church and standing outside at his funeral because it was recognised what he had achieved for people. Now what I’m hearing is that training is irregular, the ability of first responders to do their job is being limited and people are leaving the team because their skills aren’t being used.
“It’s important that the people who have funded – and benefitted from – the CFR team in Dove Valley understand that the volunteers have not decided not to respond any more. it seems they are only called to attend certain cases these days. It’s disappointing and I’m devastated that Cliff’s friends on the team have seen the role change like this. The volunteers that are left are upholding Cliff’s legacy and are doing the best they can in the circumstances. We should all thank them for the work they are doing. But they deserve to be doing the role they signed up for.”
Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer at WMAS Nick Henry said: “The changes will not only protect patients with the enhanced clinical governance arrangement but will ensure CFRs are also protected through the qualification and training improvements. The move coincides with new legislation which will result in a change in the law. As of April 1, CFRs can no longer use blue lights and sirens and must all use specific livery on their vehicles. The Trust has assisted schemes who need to change the livery on their vehicles so that there is no cost to the CFR schemes.
“In 2019, CFRs in Staffordshire attended 5,198 incidents. Of the six drugs being removed (adrenaline, aspirin, GTN, salbutamol, glucagon and Entonox), they were only used on 98 patients. To put this into context, there were almost 200,000 incidents in Staffordshire. All of the patients who would previously have received these drugs continue to do so, but from an ambulance crew rather than a CFR.
“The reason the numbers are so small is down to the speed at which a WMAS ambulance arrives to back up the CFR. For Category 1 calls in Staffordshire, an ambulance will back up a CFR in on average 6’47” for a Category 1 call. As a result, the CFRs in most cases won’t have a chance to take the patient’s history and carry out their basic checks.
“CFRs are an incredible valuable resource for West Midlands Ambulance Service and they all do a fantastic job for the communities in which they serve. Their primary focus is on saving the lives of patients who suffer from a cardiac arrest or heart attack and these changes will only increase their ability to do that. We have completed mandatory training for the active CFRs for 2019/20 and just starting this for 2020/21. We have not completed any training of new recruits in the last 12 months and we are just finalising the recruitment and training plan which will start in early 2021.”
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