South Central Ambulance Service Volunteer Responders Win National Team Of The Year Award

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) and South Central Ambulance Charity’s volunteer responders have been named ‘outstanding volunteering team of the year’ at a national awards ceremony for their contribution to healthcare amid the challenges of COVID-19.

The 1,200-strong team of Community First Responders (CFRs) and Co-Responders were up against four other organisations for the title at the Helpforce Champions Awards 2021, with the winner announced online earlier today (Friday).

Volunteer responders are members of the public trained to support the ambulance service primarily by attending medical emergencies and sometimes providing lifesaving first aid to patients before paramedics arrive.

SCAS Volunteer Community First Responders

They also assist with ongoing patient care at the scene and attend more than 30,000 incidents every year. They are funded solely by South Central Ambulance Charity, which provides equipment, training and is responsible for the vehicle fleet of 51.

CFRs volunteer in their spare time — providing a minimum of 20 hours a month each — and cover a population of more than four million across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire.

Helpforce was set up by former Marie Curie charity chief executive Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett to accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering in the NHS by collaborating with organisations and rapidly sharing insights and best practice.

Its awards ceremony celebrates the invaluable contributions made by volunteers in the NHS and this year focused on the role they have played — and continue to play — in managing the impact of the pandemic.

“We are absolutely delighted our SCAS Community First Responder team has won this award,” said Vanessa Casey, Chief Executive of South Central Ambulance Charity.’

“The award recognises the enormous contribution each and every one of our CFRs and Co-Responders has made, not just over the last year but in every year.’

“We know the last year has provided many new and different challenges, but it has also shown the true loyalty, resilience, and passion of our volunteers — on behalf of everyone at SCAS we thank them all for their continued support and hard work.”

During the pandemic CFRs have continued to respond to emergencies and support patient care but have also taken on new roles such as introducing ‘Teapot’ refreshment vehicles to provide staff with hot drinks while waiting with patients at emergency departments.

They have also volunteered in the control room and headquarters to dispatch CFRs, helped distribute donated goods from hand cream to coffee across ambulance service sites and taken on a variety of fundraising challenges to raise money for additional equipment and new technology.

Volunteers who had to temporarily stand down due to age or their own health vulnerabilities did not give up and found new ways to support SCAS, joining specific bubbles and providing essential support outside of direct patient care such as helping with vaccination rollouts. 

Andy Long, a CFR based in Oxfordshire, said: “I have been a CFR for almost 14 years and I have loved every single second.’

“COVID-19 has been difficult and made life quite scary at times but we continued to do what we do because we know it makes a difference and is appreciated. This award is marvellous and to be recognised for something you do is really special — it means an awful lot.”

Sir Thom Hughes-Hallett, Helpforce Chairman & Founder

Sir Thomas said: “What a team. Driving black cabs down from London to protect patient transport patients in transit, they trained to dispatch community first responders from their call centre, crewed teapot refreshment vehicles and distributed donated goods from hand cream to coffee.’

“They helped their ambulance service reach even more patients, treating and leaving patients at home and supporting the welfare of elderly and vulnerable patients throughout the pandemic.’

“How lucky we are to have them I applaud on your behalf the South Central Ambulance Charity and South Central Ambulance Service Community First Responders.”

Ambulance Service Joins Wave Of Veteran Aware Trusts Improving Care For The Armed Forces Community

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) has been named a Veteran Aware Trust in recognition of its commitment to improving NHS care for veterans, reservists, members of the Armed Forces and their families.

The accreditation, from the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA), acknowledges the Trust’s commitment to a number of key pledges, including:

•                Ensuring that the Armed Forces community is never disadvantaged compared to other patients, in line with the NHS’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant

•                Training relevant staff on veteran specific culture and needs

•                Making veterans, reservists and service families aware of appropriate charities or NHS services beneficial to them, such as mental health services or support with financial and/or benefit claims

•                Supporting the Armed Forces as an employer.

SCAS is now one of 99 members of the VCHA and is part of a growing number of NHS Trusts gaining this accolade.

Paul Jefferies,
Assistant Director of Operations,
South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Paul Jefferies, Assistant Director of Operations at SCAS, said: “As a Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award holder, we in SCAS are immensely proud to be recognised as Veteran Aware.

“This accreditation reinforces the key working relationships SCAS has with the Armed Forces both as colleagues but also as service users.

“The team within SCAS has worked tirelessly to gain this recognition and to further support our service personnel and I would like to congratulate them for this well-deserved award.”

The VCHA is made up of a group of NHS providers and works closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement, service charities and the Ministry of Defence.

The alliance was set up following The Chavasse Report in 2014 which was written by leading orthopaedic surgeon Professor Tim Briggs CBE with the aim of improving Armed Forces and veteran care while raising NHS standards.

One of the recommendations was to establish a support network of trusts resulting in the development of the VCHA.

“These Trusts should be very proud of the commitment they have made to the service men and women of this country,” said Prof Briggs. “Welcoming them into the VCHA is a major step towards our aim of ensuring every NHS trust in the country is Veteran Aware.”

General Lord Richard Dannatt, patron of the VCHA and former head of the British Army, said: “Although the British Armed Forces are not currently engaged in high profile campaigns such as in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, the health and wellbeing battles for many veterans continue.

“The VCHA is playing a major part in helping our brave veterans win their personal battles.”