Community First Responders (CFR’s) across the New Forest are teaming up to spread the word that they need more volunteers to join them and help save lives in their own communities.

Volunteers are needed across the whole New Forest area but especially in New Milton, Brockenhurst, Ringwood and Bransgore.

CFR’s in those areas have joined forces to get the message out that the more volunteers they have, the more hours they can be available and potentially the more lives that can be saved.

Community First Responders (CFRs) are all volunteers who give their time freely to help save lives in their community.

They are trained by South Central Ambulance Service in basic life support, the use of AED (Automated External Defibrillator) and the treatment and control of a wide range of potentially life-threatening conditions.

They attend calls in their local area and provide basic life support care until the arrival of the ambulance service.

When not required they remain at home or work carrying on with their daily life.

The volunteers also demonstrate CPR and how to use a defibrillator to groups, schools and associations etc in their communities, raising awareness of basic life-saving skills.

After attending an initial five-day training course (spread over several weekends and weekday evenings), the commitment asked is to make yourself available for at least 20 hours each month ( in small bits ) and to attend an annual 1 day refresher course.

Volunteers can choose the times to fit around their other commitments and they ‘respond’ from home or work.

Additional training modules are available for those who wish to learn more, enhance their skills, or perhaps are considering a career in the ambulance service.

Skills include the use of specialist lifting equipment to help those who have had a fall, are uninjured, but unable to get themselves up from the floor.

A nationally recognised qualification in Community First Responding is available.

First Responders across the New Forest have been recognised for their service on a number of occasions.

Honours bestowed upon various group members include a British Empire Medal, an award for Outstanding Service to the people of the New Forest, an Outstanding Service Award from the National Association of Ambulance Chief Executives and two “Volunteer of the Year” awards from South Central Ambulance Service as well as a Paul Harris Fellowship from Bransgore Rotary Club .

Speaking at the launch of the recruiting campaign Steve Shepherd,  a first responder in New Milton said,

“To be able to serve your own community and do your best for someone at a time when they need prompt assistance is very rewarding. Colleagues in the wider family of community first responders are doing this daily and really making a difference to the health and well-being of people across the New Forest and elsewhere.”

Co-ordinating the recruitment campaign locally is Jackie Russell the deputy coordinator of the Bransgore scheme,

“Like most voluntary groups, people come and go as their availability and life style changes so there is a constant need to seek out new volunteers.

Before becoming a CFR none of our team had any previous medical experience.

Our volunteers include retired and working people, but with the superb training and support we get from the ambulance service, most people could do this.

You need to be over 18 and have use of a car, be of good character and fit enough to carry the kitbag and conduct CPR on arrival if it were necessary.

Our schemes ask for a minimum of 20 hours a month being available if needed, but the beauty of this type of voluntary work is that you can do it when you want, and you fit it in with your life.

Until the call comes you are free to carry on with your daily life routine.”

Denis Hann is now the only first responder in Ringwood and needs more volunteers to join him. He said,

“Responder schemes save lives, especially in cases of cardiac arrest.

The reward for the individual is knowing that they have done their bit to save a life and I would say it is the best feeling in the world.

But CFRs don’t just deal with cardiac arrests.

There are many conditions they assist with; accidents and trauma, breathing difficulties, stroke, chest pain, diabetic emergencies, the list goes on.

Very often though, the best treatment is the reassuring presence of a caring first responder who is there “just in case” and who has skills to help and a direct link to the ambulance control room if needed”.

The South Central Ambulance Charity which supports CFR schemes in the area fund the extras not available through the NHS.

Apart from funding the community first responder schemes the South Central Ambulance Charity trains and equips communities to save lives by providing public access defibrillators where needed.

They develop and enhance the care that the ambulance service can provide to those in need.

This includes funding research projects, state of the art equipment and improving working environments.

Anyone who may be interested in becoming a community first responder in the New Forest area  should ring 0800 587 0207 or E mail cfr@scas.nhs.uk

Alternatively, for the Ringwood, Brockenhurst, New Milton and Bransgore areas only, they can call 0844 500 9699 and one of the local New Forest CFR team will contact them to chat and explain more.