LIFE in Nantwich could get perilous
for anyone who is involved in an emergency such as a heart
attack or a diabetes episode, or who needs pain relief. Unless, that is,
campaigners can halt a proposed change in the First Responders
service on May 1.
First Responders, as
you may know, are the volunteers with full time jobs (the town's
four are retained firemen) who race to the scene of an
accident or attend to someone who has suffered a heart
or insulin problem - or, indeed, any other emergency - before
an ambulance can get to the scene. Target time: eight minutes.
Those at the meeting
of an ambulance which took 45 minutes to reach a serious road
traffic accident because it was sent out from Wilmslow in North
Cheshire where it had been on its last call out. Ironically it
had to travel past Leighton Hospital to reach the emergency. Of
course, the First Responders do not have space in their vehicle
(the size of an estate car) to transport patients to hospital -
even if they were allowed to do so.
The problem is that
North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) - a quango, apparently, and
so not elected by the general public - is standardising its
service after the Cheshire trust area was merged with those of Manchester
and Lancashire. It has been claimed this would mean the Nantwich
paramedics being brought down to the level of other, less
And not just Nantwich, it seems. At a
public meeting in the Civic Hall on April 12, sponsored by
Nantwich Town Council, First Responders from other Cheshire
areas said they would be similarly affected.
As I understand it, if the changes are
introduced, First Responders would not be able to:
administer aspirin to anyone suffering a
administer Hypostop for a diabetic
administer Entinox for pain relief;
use a bag valve and mask (as
seen on TV) to administer 100% oxygen (a "pocket" version,
which I believe is a plastic barrier for First Responders
giving "mouth to mouth" resuscitation is going to be used
attend to children under 14;
old people suffering, for example, a fall in the street;
attend road traffic accidents;
use their siren and flashing
lights on their way to an emergency.
A thought: On that last
point, could it mean that, in extreme cases, they might arrive
after the ambulance?
It seems that initial training
of First Responders will be reduced from 40 days to 28. All
First Responders undergo on-going training - but this will
obviously be less than previously undertaken.
logic, Nantwich Town Councillor, Steve Hope, asks
"Why don't they (the North West Ambulance Service) say the rest
of the region are not up to scratch and bring them up to the
South Cheshire level rather than bring South Cheshire down?" In
view of what was said by other First Responders at the Civic
Hall, Cllr Hope would have to widen this comment to include
other parts of Cheshire. But he has a valid point.
One First Responder has
said that if the new standards are brought in the medics would
leave the service rather than be faced with the task of telling
people facing an emergency that they couldn't help them. "We do
not want to be put in the position where we have people thinking
we could have done more for them," said one First Responder at
the public meeting.
The hour-long public
meeting was a mix of "evidence" from First Responders and
comments from the public - far too much to do justice to it on a
One grateful man
praised the work of the First Responders who had attended to him
when he had had a bad asthma attack.
But another man accused speakers of
"a certain amount of scaremongering". The problem was not as bad
as it was being made out to be, he said. The man had been in
touch with the North West Ambulance Service who, he said, "are
in full support of the First Responders in Nantwich."
The scaremongering jibe
was quickly refuted. Other points he made were also refuted.
A consultant pharmacist offered his help in the fight.
One man whose
non-attendance was regretted by the audience was John
Burnside, NWAS Chief Executive (right), who cited the closeness of the
May 1 elections as a reason for him not getting involved in
discussing an issue that could influence public opinion.
That didn't go down well at the public meeting.
Town Council Chairman, Cllr Bill McGinnis - who conducted the
meeting - said this was a
Nantwich problem not a political one and pointed out that there
were people and councillors of all political persuasions at the public meeting.
If he thought that his
excuse for not being present would get him off the hook, Mr
Burnside will have to think again. Names were taken at the end
of the meeting for people willing to be part of a delegation to
go to his headquarters.
On another front, the
Town Council are to call on Mr Burnside to delay any changes
until after the County Council's Health Scrutiny committee has had a chance to
discuss them on May 1 (Note the date?).
The First Responders
are partly sponsored by the Town Council and "is viewed by
councillors as a key component in the emergency health services
on which townspeople rely," said Cllr McGinnis in his annual
council report, adding: "We view this prospect (the change of
service) with alarm."
As well as Cllr
McGinnis, the platform party comprised:
Gavin Palin, one of the
Nantwich First Responders;
County Councillor Mrs Dorothy
Flude (Crewe South, attending on behalf of Nantwich MP, Mrs Gwyneth
Dunwoody, who had just undergone major heart surgery);
Nantwich County Councillor and
Town Councillor Arthur Moran (he is also a borough
councillor for good measure);
County Councillor Allan
Richardson (Cholmondeley, who was also representing Stephen
O'Brien, Shadow Minister for Health and MP for Eddisbury),
Nantwich Town Councillor Keith
Cllr Steve Hope was in charge of a
microphone that was passed to members of the public to express
their views, and there were other councillors in the audience.
All spoke during the meeting.
If the powers-that-be
in the North West Ambulance Service
think that the people of Nantwich are going to simply roll over
and die, they showed that the NWAS should think again.
Picture of John Burnside taken from the NWAS website (www.nwas.nhs.uk)