Pay emergency volunteers to help ambulance response, councillors say

The East of England Ambulance service are urging the public not to dial 999 to check when their ambulance will arrive

Pay volunteers to support ambulances, councillor suggests - Credit: Archant

Pay volunteers to help in health emergencies to tackle the crisis in ambulance times in north Norfolk, councillors have suggested. 

A councillor at North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has suggested paying community volunteers in a system similar to the fire services, to help people before an ambulance arrives. 

High ambulance response times have been an ongoing concern in north Norfolk, which has some of the worst times in the country. 

While north Norfolk already has a group of volunteers called 'community first responders' (CFR) who attend emergency calls, they are currently unpaid.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Wendy Fredericks, councillor for Mundesley, told care bosses they were "missing a trick" and more people would sign-up if they were treated more like retained firefighters.

Wendy Fredericks, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mundesley in the 2019 North Norfolk District Counci

Wendy Fredericks, a member of the North Norfolk District Council development committee. - Credit: Supplied by Wendy Fredericks

Retained firefighters are given training but only attended the fire station when they have an emergency callout, with payment for any work undertaken. 

She said: “You would get more people signing up because our CFRs have to do other jobs, they are retired, there’s a limit to what they can do."

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Ms Fredericks said CFRs currently have to pay for their own courses, books and equipment.

By investing in the community, Ms Frediericks said it would mean people would be able to get support earlier and avoid either needing to go to the hospital or stay there as long.

Marcus Bailey, the Chief operating officer of the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) said he "did not disagree" and said CFRs could be important, for example in getting defibrillators to patients in need as quickly as possible. 

However, he said the service needed to take incremental steps, with the trust looking to cover CFR's petrol mileage first. 

He also said EEAST is looking into a volunteer scheme for staff who have offered to respond while not at work. 

Mr Bailey and Ross Collett from the Integrated Care Board (ICB) said they were continuing to look at ways to cut response times, with new trials for rapid drop-off of patients at hospitals so ambulances could be freed up. 

Mr Collett said the health service continued to suffer from staffing-related issues, with the number of covid infections rising and long-term issues around burnout.