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Paramedics volunteer for work on days off under new scheme which aims to save lives

Paramedic Alex Hartley, a NARS volunteer, is one of several paramedics who attends incidents despite being off-duty. Picture cleared for publication by all parties. Picture submitted by NARS.

Paramedic Alex Hartley, a NARS volunteer, is one of several paramedics who attends incidents despite being off-duty. Picture cleared for publication by all parties. Picture submitted by NARS.

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A group of dedicated paramedics are hoping a new volunteering scheme could be the difference between life and death for people who suffer life-threatening health emergencies.

Incident map plotter from 01/01/17 - 08/03/17. Photo from Norfolk Accident Rescue Service. Incident map plotter from 01/01/17 - 08/03/17. Photo from Norfolk Accident Rescue Service.

The scheme sees paramedics make themselves available during non-work hours for call-outs to incidents close to their homes.

It means they are able to respond to some patients in medical emergencies faster than a dispatched ambulance crew.

Launched late last year by the charity Norfolk Accident Rescue Service (NARS) in co-operation with East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST), the scheme has resulted in more than 40 people being treated before an EEAST crew arrived.

The team of paramedics, which will number seven by the end of this month, are all EEAST staff who volunteer with NARS.

Current Location of all Norfolk Accident Rescue Service responders in 2017. Photo from Norfolk Accident Rescue Service. Current Location of all Norfolk Accident Rescue Service responders in 2017. Photo from Norfolk Accident Rescue Service.

Such is their commitment and determination to help patients that they can make themselves available at all times of the day and night during non-work hours.

28-year old paramedic Alex Hartley, who is part of the team, said: “We do it because we’re that passionate about our jobs.

“There’s no financial gain for us but it means the patient can get a high level of care faster.

“Our local communities see us driving to jobs and hopefully it reassures them a little knowing we are there.”

The scheme is simple yet effective.

Mr Hartley, who has worked for EEAST for eight years, is able to log on to an ambulance system whenever he would like to make himself available.

Once logged on he can be called out to incidents that happen within a certain circumference of his home in Costessey, near Norwich.

With other members of the team living in places such as King’s Lynn, Wisbech, and Great Yarmouth - it means the reach of the paramedics is significant, but more are needed to cover other hotspots such as in north and south Norfolk.

“I would like to see us get to 15 paramedics,” Mr Hartley said.

“We’re trying to spread ourselves to cover as much of the county as we can.

“We need people in areas such as between Aylsham and up to the coast, and south from Long Stratton and across to Watton.

“They are difficult areas to get to because of the roads.”

So far the team has been on call for more than 300 hours.

“It’s our own choice when to log on,” Mr Hartley said.

“For me it’s normally whenever I’ve got a day off and don’t have anything planned. We try to do around 30 hours per month each.”

When a call is assigned to one of the volunteers, they are able to drive with blue lights and sirens to the patient - thanks to funding from NARS.

Mr Hartley cited an incident he was called out to which occured close to his home, as an example of the scheme.

A female pedestrian had been injured after being hit by a car.

“I was by her side within two minutes,” Mr Hartley said.

“She had a head injury and needed to go to hospital. I was able to get assistance faster because I was there and could share the details.”

The paramedics carry kit-bags with resucitation equipment and other items to help them care for a patient.

Mr Hartley said the scheme provides good training for paramedics because they are mainly called out to patients in urgent need of help.

This can include incidents such as road traffic accidents and cardiac arrests.

“Paramedics who join get a good opportunity to progress,” he added.

The scheme also brings important benefits to EEAST because the team’s ability to reach a patient quickly counts towards the trust’s performance against the national eight-minute response target.

EEAST, like all other ambulance trusts is currently missing that target, and needs to improve to avoid penalties from regulators.

It means the responding scheme contributes towards that improvement.

“On average we are able to respond to Red 1 and Red 2 calls (when patients are most in need of medical help) within eight minutes,” Mr Hartley said.

Doctors and paramedics who volunteer to NARS receive extra training to provide trauma care and can then administer more drugs at the scene of a crash or cardiac arrest.

Any paramedics who would like to join the scheme can email paul@nars.org.uk to find out more.

For more information about NARS or to donate to the charity click here.

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