Some of the 21-strong team of SECAmb Emergency Responders

Two teams of volunteer Emergency Responders, (ERs), participating in a trial to understand how they can improve patient care, have responded to hundreds of seriously ill patients over the past year.

The first team of responders began operating out South East Coast Ambulance Service’s (SECAmb’s) Ashford operating unit, in Kent, in February 2023, focussing primarily on the Romney Marsh area. The second team, now operating out of Crawley and Horsham in West Sussex, began responding to patients in March 2023.

The scheme works in a similar way to the Trust’s volunteer community first responders, who are trained by SECAmb to respond to emergencies in the areas that they live and work and can deliver care to patients in the minutes before ambulance crews arrive. Rather than being based from home or work, the ERs, who have undergone additional training, book on for a shift and operate out of a SECAmb base or standby point.

Together, the 21 ERs have volunteered more than 9000 hours, operating on dedicated vehicles equipped to respond on blue lights and sirens. They have been dispatched to over 1600 incidents, (1,687), including 281 immediately life-threatening Category 1 calls. The teams have also responded to hundreds of non-life threatening incidents including to patients who have fallen.

Since their launch in the New Romney area alone, the ERs have attended more than 100 Category 1 calls and averaged a response time of 7 minutes and 46 seconds. The West Sussex-based ERs have attended 171 category one incidents with an average response time of 6 minutes 58 seconds.

ERs focus on providing a safe and effective initial response and receive back up from ambulance crews as required.

Each ER is subject to a robust recruitment process and have undertaken additional extensive training including a nationally-accredited blue-light driving course and additional clinical training.

SECAmb Head of Community Resilience, David Wells said: “With both of our Emergency Responder teams now having been operating for more than a year, I would like to say a very big thank you to every volunteer for their dedication to this important project.

“While we will need to formally evaluate the trial, the volunteers involved have shown they are very capable of responding to patients in this way. The ERs complement our Community First Responders offering and help to ensure our patients, including those in an immediately life-threatening condition, receive the treatment they require as quickly as possible.”

Dan Garrett, Operating Unit Manager for Gatwick said: “We are very fortunate to have the ERs working in our area. Their availability and option to respond under emergency conditions is of real benefit as we look to strengthen our response to our most seriously ill and injured patients.”

Nick Keech, Operating Unit Manager for Ashford added: “New Romney is an area which can be challenging for us to respond to as quickly as we would like for Category 1 calls in particular. While there are many variables which can impact on our performance, we have seen an improvement in our response times of around two min since the launch of the ERs and I would like to thank every volunteer for their dedication and hard work.”