First aid volunteers are the difference between life and death

Anthony Marcella, far left, with some of the New Longton community responders, who volunteer for the North West Ambulance Service
Anthony Marcella, far left, with some of the New Longton community responders, who volunteer for the North West Ambulance Service
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KAY TAYLOR speaks to a dedicated volunteer who is first on the scene in life-threatening emergencies

Anthony Marcella is often first on the scene of an emergency in his local area when someone calls 999 - but he isn’t paid to be there.

“Instead of complaining about how stretched the ambulance service is, get involved and give something back; do something worthwhile.”

Community First Responder Anthony Marcella

Instead, the dad-of-two volunteers as a Community First Responder (CFR) for the North West Ambulance Service, and his contribution really can be the difference between life and death.

“I’m part of a team of volunteers based in the community,” he says. “We’re on call, and we’re dispatched by the ambulance service when there’s an incident such as cardiac arrest, unconsciousness or an asthma attack.

“We’re normally first on the scene due to our locality, and provide reassurance and care prior to an ambulance arriving. The sooner someone is on the scene, the better chance of survival.”

Anthony, who lives in Lostock Hall with his wife Laura, joined the New Longton CFR team two years ago, which covers parts of South Ribble and Preston.

“There is only a limited number of ambulances in the area, based at Leyland, and the service is very stretched,” he adds. “The paramedics could be in Chorley or elsewhere, so it’s important to have community responders covering the towns and villages.

“I’m a stay-at-home dad, so I’m on call at nights and weekends when my wife’s at home. There’s another responder in Lostock Hall who’s retired so he does the days.

“Anyone can sign up and it involves a four-day training course. It’s great to have those life-saving skills, and it really makes a difference.”

Anthony used to work for the ambulance service, so has been aware of the scheme for a while.

The 35-year-old explains: “I know how much pressure the service is under, and I think it’s about time the community did a bit more to help.

“Instead of complaining about it, get involved and give something back; do something worthwhile.

“It is a big commitment, but there’s a lot of satisfaction which comes with it, and I really enjoy it.

“If a member of my family needed help, I would want that reassurance that a trained first aider was there to act quickly until the ambulance arrived.”

CFRs also support the paramedics when they arrive.

In Lancashire, there are around 30 teams, and New Longton’s was set up in November 2010 by team leader Laura Foxon. It consists of 12 volunteers who live within the coverage area.

Laura is a full time emergency medical technician, which is a paid role, but her team leader role is separate to her day job and is a voluntary position.

Although some equipment is supplied by the North West Ambulance Service, such as oxygen, the group needs to raise funds for its own response kits, defibrillators, and pagers.

The GPS pagers cost £1,000 for three years, defibrillators are £900 and the special fluorescent kit bags are £200.

Anthony says: “We do not receive much in the way of funding from the ambulance service to support our work.

“We need to raise our own funds to provide much of the equipment we carry and are appealing to any local businesses who may want to sponsor the equipment.

“We’re also in the process of getting charity status so members of the public can make donations too.”

Jane Atkinson, Cumbria and Lancashire area community resuscitation development officer for the North West Ambulance Service, says: “Our New Longton team does a brilliant job in responding to life-threatening incidents and ensuring our patients get the most appropriate care as quickly as possible.

“The team is always on the lookout for additional members to join – if you’re interested, we’d very much like to hear from you.”

- To help with sponsorship, contact Anthony on 07779 045923 or anthonymarcella@rocketmail. The ambulance service is also looking for more volunteers in Garstang and Preston. Visit www.nwas-responders.info for details.