Is Audlem First Responder scheme being damaged before it starts?

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Village leaders at Audlem are furious over plans to downgrade the role of volunteer medics just weeks after being promised their own first responder team. Parish Councillors had fought hard to improve medical cover in the village after complaints on a number of occasions that it took up to an hour for an ambulance to arrive to incidents. They were told they would not get their own ambulance but a first responder team was to be introduced at Audlem Fire Station following training of 12 volunteers by the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), due to start on May 6th.

With the widely publicised news that Nantwich Town Council is looking to go to law to stop the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) downgrading their First Responder scheme, there are fears that the NWAS' proposals will have a deeply negative impact on Audlem's new scheme.

The NWAS has been sending letters to community First Responders in Cheshire explaining their new policy. This involves reducing the level of training and preventing Responders going to certain calls and from administering certain drugs. The reason given is that Lancashire, Manchester and Cumbria have a lower standard than Cheshire and Merseyside and therefore all areas in the regional service have to be reduced to the lower standard! The NWAS has clarified the position for Cheshire First Responders by saying: "Although the new base-line position will mean they are not operating at the same levels as previously, the Trust has stated its commitment to review this based on dynamic feedback through operational and clinical data." (Honestly, we didn't make up that quote but would be happy to have it translated.)

The plans to downgrade the service could be introduced as soon as 1st May. As we understand it, under the new rules, local First Responders would not have been able to provide assistance at any of the five major incidents in Audlem reported on Audlem Online, when there has been a very lengthy wait for an ambulance. It's hardly surprising, therefore that, with its successful First Responder under threat, Nantwich is thinking of taking the NWAS to law. Nantwich too has had to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance after a 999 call — to an accident on the Middlewich Road, Despite it being minutes away from Leighton Hospital, the ambulance came from Wilmslow.

Parish Councillor, Mike Hill said: "This is totally bizarre. I can see it from Nantwich's point of view but in the rural area, if something went wrong and they died, how is that First Responder going to feel? There are going to be 12 volunteers giving up their time to do this job but they aren't going to be able to do it properly."

If you want to make known your views on the First Responder issue to NWAS then write to Mary Whyham, Chairman, North West Ambulance Service, Regional Headquarters, Ladybridge Hall, Chorley New Road, Bolton BL1 5DD. Or you can email them at nwasinternetenquiries@nwas.nhs.uk">nwasinternetenquiries@nwas.nhs.uk.