A Letter from Nantwich update (continued)               

An ambulance is parked on the forecourt of Nantwich Community Fire Station between emergency calls in Nantwich and villages around. (See Honorary Member of Staff)

Pleased with response times

JULY 2010

RESPONSE times of 77.4% for calls answered within eight minutes and almost 100% for those answered in 19 minutes delighted campaigner Cllr Bill McGinnis, according to the Nantwich Chronicle (July 7). He was quoted as saying "I am very pleased with the improvement and the current trend shows an upward slope."

   An additional dedicated first responder dispatch desk at North West Ambulance Service's emergency control centre would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Deputy Chief Executive of NWAS, Bob Williams, was quoted as saying. This was "a step forward in ensuring  consistent communications with responders throughout the region, which will only go to improve patient care."

l A "victory dance" was held to mark the retention of blue lights on the responders' vehicles. It was organised by campaigner Ann Aspinall to mark the work of Gavin Palin (First Responder) and his team. She was quoted in The Chronicle as saying: "We are very grateful for the support the people of Nantwich and surrounding villages gave us as now everyone can get the best chance of care before an ambulance can get to a patient."

   The Mayor of Nantwich (Cllr Joyce Stockton) attended. Music for the evening was provided by California Blue.


Honorary member of staff

MARCH  2010

GAVIN Palin is to be accorded the status of honorary NWAS staff member - subject to Darren Hurrell being satisfied about his training and qualification. That news was given in a letter to the Nantwich Chronicle by Nantwich's first Mayor, Cllr Edith Williams.

   She referred to the "blue light ambulance" to be stationed in the town, but pointed out that it would be responding to other areas as needed and not confined to "Nantwich emergencies". But she saw the stationing of the ambulance in Nantwich "during times of peak demand" as a major step forward.

   Cllr Williams said the Town Councillors welcomed the latest moves as "a victory for people power". She thanked everyone who had helped in the campaign which had "brought about these welcome changes by NWAS.

lGavin Palin has set up business as an undertaker.


NWAS sees the light


THE blue light on Gavin Palin's First Responder's vehicle can flash again from March 1, meaning success for the town campaign to overturn a ruling by the North West Ambulance Service banning its use and preventing First Responders administrating life-saving drugs. Gavin, a retained fireman, will also be receiving additional training.

   And, what's more, there will be an ambulance based in town every day for 16 hours a day, says a report in The Nantwich Chronicle (February 10). The previous week's paper quoted Cllr Bill McGinnis, credited as the driving force of the campaign, as saying "We're delighted and congratulate the new NWAS chief executive Darren Hurrell for the swift review and its speedy conclusion."

   Without being able to use the blue light on his vehicle, Gavin wasn't able to reach patients any more quickly than an ambulance approaching from the wide area they cover - defeating the idea of a first responder.


MP to introduce Bill on performance figures


EDWARD Timpson, the MP for Crewe and Nantwich, is planning to introduce a Private Member's Bill in the House of Commons so that ambulance performance times can be checked more easily, according to a report in The Nantwich Chronicle (January 13).

   This is because currently results are published only region by region so, for instance, response times in rural areas could be masked, it was said. Audlem, near Nantwich, was cited as an example of a placed where poor times would not comes to light because they would be in average figures, including urban areas, for the whole area.

   The North West Ambulance Service responded to 73% of Category A calls in eight minutes - just short of the required 75% - at the end of 2009. The figure in Nantwich was 53%.    

   Mr Timpson's Bill would be part of the current local campaign to get restored the use of blue lights on Responders' vehicles to improve response times. The MP headed a party of campaigners who took a petition about the lights to the Downing Street, London, residence of the Prime Minster in January.

l Mr Timpson has since introduced his Private Member's Bill.   


Responder's father dies after "ambulance delay"


IN an ironic twist of fate, the father of First Responder Gavin Palin has died one week after an ambulance took more than three hours to reach him following an early morning 999 call.

   The claim was made in the front page story of The Nantwich Chronicle (October 7) headed "Not Good Enough". It told how Danny Palin, aged 67, was paralysed from the waist down after a sudden illness. An ambulance was called at 6.02am, said the report, but an emergency vehicle didn't arrive at his home until 9.37am.

   Gavin stressed that he wasn't blaming North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) for his father's death, but the three-and-a-half hour wait was "completely unacceptable". His father had been in discomfort. Gavin is quoted as saying: "The system has let us down and this is not an isolated incident. Nothing is changing."

   The article's headline came from a quote by Nantwich Town Councillor Bill McGinnis: "Just one in two Category A calls are being reached within the target of eight minutes, which is just not good enough."

    An NWAS spokesman was quoted by The Chronicle as saying: "The GP requested an ambulance to arrive within one hour. The GP was advised to call back if the patient's condition had worsened. An additional call was received at 9.05am for an estimated time of arrival, but did not indicate that the patient's condition has worsened. Unfortunately, an ambulance did not arrive on scene until 9.37am. The trust apologises for this delay. We had received a large number of calls and an ambulance was sent as soon as one became available."

   The spokesman expressed the trust's sympathy to Mr Palin's family.  


Service based at fire station


NANTWICH Co-responders are to be based at Nantwich Fire Station after a new scheme was launched on September 9. North West Ambulance Service and Cheshire Fire and Rescue got together to provide the improved scheme.

   The thinking behind the scheme, as reported in The Nantwich Chronicle of that date, was that the co-responders will be fire fighters already trained in trauma and critical care who will get to patients quickly before paramedics can take over.

   Cllr Bill McGinnis was quoted as saying: "We are happy that after a prolonged period of negotiations with North West Ambulance Service, stretching back to 2007, we now see some positive steps forward in improving the rapid response service in Nantwich."

   He said the new version of co-responding was a much enhanced model compared with the original version which was "very basic."

   But we aren't there yet. Cllr McGinnis went on: "There are still some unresolved issues surrounding the operation of our Community First Responders and we will continue to press for the restoration of 'blue light' driving in order to bring uniformity to the service in Nantwich."


l Cllr McGinnis has contacted the North West Ambulance Service asking for the blue lights to be restored on First Responders' vehicles, The Nantwich Chronicle reported in its September 23 issue.


Now an ambulance station . . .

APRIL 2009

WITH April 1 as the day the restrictions on the First Responders were due to come into force, it was strange to see The Nantwich Chronicle declare: "Ambulance campaigners celebrate". But the sub-heading told more: "Town on brink of getting its own station." Reporter James Oliver wrote: "High-level discussions have now revealed a retained ambulance scheme is primed to be piloted in the town."

   The move was said to be because the North West Ambulance Service wanted to improve its ratio for reaching life threatening calls within eight minutes.

   Cllr Bill McGinnis, one of the leading campaigners, is quoted as saying: "This would be a fully-equipped service where volunteers are on call."

   Before I quote the whole article let me point you to this website for the full story.

l On a related point, Nicola Tooke, who was a driving force behind the town march last July, was elected as a Nantwich Town Councillor (as a Nantwich Independent) in a by-election on March 26.   

Cumbria, too

MARCH 2009

I HAVE been told that when the North West Ambulance Service took over the running of the Cheshire and Lancashire services, they also took over the Cumbria ambulance service. It was no surprise to learn that the First Responders in that area were also against the "de-skilling" that followed.

   There is a website - http://nwas-responders.co.uk - which records the events in that area.  

   A First Responder told me: "Here, we have been consistently de-skilled since we started 10 years ago. We used to be able to give aspirin and attend children. All that stopped prior to NWAS takeover.

We are supposed to only use medium flow masks, and not allowed bag and mask (yeuk - it gets bad at times)."

Fire fighters "being trained as paramedics"


IT SEEMS that fire fighters are now being brought into the dispute. The Nantwich Chronicle of January 14 reported: "Cheshire Fire and Rescue and the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) are in talks to introduce a co-responder scheme in a bid to offset the downgrading of the town’s first responders. But the Cheshire Fire Brigade Union (FBU) says fire fighters have not been consulted on the plans and believe it is an attempt to mask NWAS’ poor response times in the area."

   The articles continues: "NWAS fell almost 20% below its 75% target for reaching life-threatening calls within eight minutes from January to September last year."

    A Cheshire FBU spokesman said the fire fighters were totally against the idea. No discussions have taken place with them.

   Apparently the idea was mooted in Crewe, but the fire fighters turned fought the idea, citing inadequate training. 

   The irony of this is that our First Responders are, in fact, retained fire fighters. But that is a coincidence. They are not doing the work as fire fighters, which would be the case if the latest idea went ahead.  

   In any case, aren't fire fighters busy enough tackling a fire when they are called out? What next? Ambulance crews lending a hand with the hoses?

Another protest planned


A SECOND protest march through Nantwich is being planned, the Nantwich Chronicle reported on December 31.

   Campaigner Ann Aspinall, who is making the plans, said nothing seemed to be happening with the call for the restoration of the blue lights on First Responders' vehicles.

   Calling for the blue lights to be restored, Gavin Palin, a First Responder, said lives were at risk particularly in the villages around Nantwich. The Responders were answering 16 calls a month instead of the 100 previously. He claimed that the North West Ambulance Service were almost 20% behind their target of reaching 56.4% of patients in eight minutes.    

   The NWAS said a pilot co-responder scheme with Cheshire Fire Authority was to be introduced "early in 2009", the Chronicle reported, and quoted a spokeswoman as saying: "Regretfully, it can sometimes be financially prohibitive to provide the same level of resource to some more remote areas as it is to compact urban locations."

NWAS criticised by county committee



COUNCILLOR Bill McGinnis has told me about the latest position in the Town Council's campaign to return the Community First Responders to the status quo.

   Cheshire County Council's Scrutiny Committee didn't feel qualified to adjudicate on the question of First Responders giving aspirin and other medication - but came out against the use of the blue light in emergencies.

   The following is what Cllr McGinnis told me:


THE Scrutiny Committee has listened to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and taken evidence from various town councils and West Midlands (Staffordshire) Ambulance Service.

    It has produced a report which is very critical of NWAS in its handling of the affair and has recommended that NWAS meet with the Cheshire Association of Local Councils (ChALC) to consider how best to make use of the enhanced skill levels and experience which Nantwich's Community First Responders (CFRs) possess.

   We see this is as a step forward as Cheshire County Council have recognised that there would be a significant loss of expertise if our people were to be tied to the new regime. In addition, they were worried that such a move would lead to a severe fall in morale among some well trained and dedicated volunteers.

   The Scrutiny Committee did not feel qualified enough to deal with the question of administering drugs but acknowledged that they had received some in-depth information from highly qualified sources -

mainly our local consultant clinical pharmacist.

  They did consider the question of the blue light operation, however, and they were not persuaded that the blue light should be restored. This last point has left us completely bewildered as the report makes reference to how important it is to have speedy help in emergency cases. Considering that NWAS were unable to produce any evidence of clinical risk or physical danger under blue light conditions, nor point to any incident involving our CFRs - who have been operating under blue lights for four years - and that next door in Staffordshire the volunteers do operate with a blue light, we believe that common sense has been noticeably absent in this decision.

   We remain of the opinion that taking away the means of reaching an emergency in the shortest possible time is dangerous and will surely put lives at risk.

   We will continue to fight on to achieve our aim of retaining an emergency service on which the public can rely. The Town Council will arrange a meeting between our M.P., Edward Timpson, our CFRs and representatives from the Town Council to consider and co-ordinate our next moves.

  Clearly we can progress our views through ChALC on the form of the service but we will have to work out how best to put our case for the blue light.


l Picture of Cllr McGinnis is taken from the Nantwich Town Council website. (Nantwich Chronicle picture).

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