Volunteer Lifting Service To Help More Patients

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has been given significant funding to extend a pioneering volunteer-run project in local communities.

Gloucestershire Strategic Housing Partnership has provided £50,000 to support patients in six communities across the county have non-injury falls, are unable to get up, and call 999.

The scheme involves trained volunteers, called Community First Responders (CFRs), attending these incidents and assessing patients with support from clinicians in the Control Hub.

In each incident, the volunteer uses an emergency lifting chair to move patients from the floor to a sitting or standing position, and the clinician decides if an ambulance is required.

The initiative reduces patient wait times and enables frontline crews to be available for life-threatening incidents.

Kevin Dickens, SWASFT County Responder Officer for Gloucestershire, said: “We are delighted to have received this funding from the Strategic Housing Partnership.

“The lifting scheme enables our trained volunteers to further support patients at home in their local community in a robust and safe way. It means our patients can be helped back onto their feet in a safe and more-timely manner.

“Our volunteers give their time freely to help support SWASFT and our patients. This funding helps them to provide more enhanced care for those in need.”

Dr Hein Le Roux, Deputy Clinical Chair at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Falls are common and can lead to serious health issues, particularly for older people. They can cause distress and pain, and often result in people losing their confidence and independence.

“We are delighted to be working with our colleagues in South Western Ambulance Service to help people who have fallen at home.

“Responding promptly to help the person get up from the floor and ensuring they are assessed quickly is really important as it can often avoid them having to go to hospital.”

Around a third of people aged 65+ and about half of people aged 80+ fall at least once a year.

The lifting concept was developed in 2017 as a way to attend and assess non-injury falls patients more quickly, developing the skills and experience of CFRs with help from clinicians.

The new funding has enabled the service to be launched in the following new areas: Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham, Quedgeley/ Tuffley, Tidenham and Cirencester. A second scheme has also been rolled-out in Stroud.

It brings the total number of lifting schemes in Gloucestershire to 13.

During an eight-week trial involving 17 groups across the South West waiting times for non-injury falls patients were cut by 12.5%.

Of the incidents attended by a CFR 77% did not need support from a paramedic, saving 148 hours of frontline resource time.

SWASFT was given the Best Care of Older People accolade at the Health Service Journal’s 2018 Patient Safety Awards for the initiative.

CFRs are trained volunteers who attend emergency incidents and deliver care in their local communities, on behalf of SWASFT, while an ambulance is on its way.

As well as non-injury falls incidents, they respond to 999 calls where it is essential for the patient to receive immediate lifesaving care. These include conditions such as cardiac arrest, chest pain, breathing difficulties, unconscious patients, fitting and stroke.

There are around 800 CFRs providing lifesaving support to patients across the region.

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