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
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
The following is what Cllr McGinnis told me:
Committee has listened to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS)
and taken evidence from various town councils and West Midlands
(Staffordshire) Ambulance Service.
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.
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 -
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The burning question underlying all this furore is WHY SHOULD
NANTWICH AND DISTRICT BE FORCED TO ACCEPT A SLOWER AND LESS
CAPABLE EMERGENCY SERVICE? OUR LIVES ARE JUST AS VALUABLE AS
THOSE IN LIVERPOOL OR MANCHESTER.
Picture of Cllr McGinnis is taken from the
Council website. (Nantwich Chronicle picture).
Another protest march is planned
A SECOND protest march through Nantwich
was being planned, the Nantwich Chronicle reported on December 31.
Campaigner Ann Aspinall,
who was making the plans, said nothing seemed to be happening with
the call for the restoration of the blue lights on First Responders'
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."
Fire fighters "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."
articles continues: "NWAS
fell almost 20% below its 75% target for reaching
life-threatening calls within eight minutes from
January to September last year."
Cheshire FBU spokesman said the fire fighters were
totally against the idea. No discussions have taken
place with them.
the idea was mooted in Crewe, but the fire fighters
turned fought the idea, citing inadequate training.
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.
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?
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 -
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)."
Now an ambulance station . . .
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, was quoted as saying: "This would be a
fully-equipped service where volunteers are on call."
a related point, Nicola Tooke, who was a driving force behind the town
march in July 2008, was elected as a Nantwich Town Councillor (as a
Nantwich Independent) in a by-election on March 26.
Responder's father dies after "ambulance
IN an ironic twist of fate, the father of
First Responder Gavin Palin had 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
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 was 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.
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 were 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
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
He said the new version of
co-responding was a much enhanced model compared with the original
version which was "very basic."
But we weren'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."
Cllr McGinnis had 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.
MP to introduce Bill on
EDWARD Timpson, the MP for Crewe and
Nantwich, was planning to introduce a Private Member's Bill in the House
of Commons so that ambulance performance times could be checked more
easily, according to a report in The Nantwich Chronicle (January 13).
This was 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 place 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
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.
NWAS sees the light
THE blue light on Gavin Palin's First
Responder's vehicle could 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,
would also be receiving additional training.
And, what's more, there would be
an ambulance based in town every day for 16 hours a day, said 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
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.
Honorary member of staff
GAVIN Palin was 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.
Palin later set up business as an undertaker.