A FLEET of new rapid response vehicles have been officially presented to the ambulance service at an event at Buckfast Abbey.

They have been funded by a £128k grant from NHS Charities Together.

The six Dacia cars have been converted and equipped with a full Community First Responder kit including a defibrillator and observation equipment. They also carry a Raizer lifting chair to assist patients who have had a fall.

A spokesman for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) said: ‘Every day, volunteers from the SWASFT attend emergencies within their local communities ahead of an emergency ambulance. Sometimes the difference is providing reassurance; sometimes it is saving someone’s life.

‘In the last 12 months, Community First Responders were mobilised some 24,000 times to medical emergencies such as: cardiac arrests, chest pains, breathing difficulties and patients who had fallen.’

The £128k grant was secured by the South Western Ambulance Charity as part of a collaborative project with the Trust’s Volunteering and Community Services team and delivered with the support of the Fleet team.

Will Warrender, Chief Executive of SWASFT, said: ‘The funding received by the South Western Ambulance Charity is enabling us to better support our volunteers, who, in turn provide incredible support to the communities they serve.

‘They’ll respond to emergencies across a wider geographic area and support the training of new volunteers through observer shifts.’

Zoe Larter, Head of South Western Ambulance Charity, said: ‘We would like to thank NHS Charities Together for awarding us this grant.

‘It’s really going to make a huge difference and help improve the patient care delivered by our dedicated volunteers.’

The cars will enhance the work of the Community First Responders in their communities by supporting operational requirements in the following ways:

Additional response vehicles to extend Community First Responder capacity and improve patient experience

Provide a response vehicle that allows two Community First Responders to respond together to patients across the South West

Volunteer training activities, such as experienced crew members taking out new volunteers on familiarisation shifts

For double-crewed shifts to enhance skills or to enable work with other professionals

Cars may also be used to target specific types of incidents, e.g. as a Falls Vehicle or Welfare Support Car, or to work alongside a skilled professional such as with the Mental Health Team or Home Treatment Team.