Questions over volunteer responders amid pay offer to fire service medics
QUESTIONS have been raised about the role of community responders who would be paid to attend life-threatening calls when volunteers already carry out a similar job for free.
The Argus revealed on Saturday how South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is recruiting firefighters as community responders for a pilot scheme who would be trained to respond to life-threatening calls until an ambulance or rapid response vehicle arrives.
A Community First Responder scheme already operates in Wales which see volunteers support a patient until an ambulance or rapid response vehicle arrives.
There are more than 1,000 Community First Responders volunteering in Wales who complete at least 30 hours of training with the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAST) to provide back up to frontline ambulance services.
They can provide early help for emergencies such as cardiac arrests while providing basic first aid skills to prevent patients with potentially life-threatening conditions from deteriorating.
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service's assistant chief fire officer Andy Thomas said the funding for a pilot scheme, which it and WAST are looking to introduce over the coming months, has been secured by the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority and that the rates of pay are based on those of a "competent firefighter".
But one Community First Responder, volunteering in the Gwent area, said he was concerned by news of the pilot scheme.
He said: "My real concern is the fact there are thousands of community first responders out in Wales that do not get paid, we are volunteers giving up our spare time to respond to 999 calls within the community until an ambulance arrives.
"We struggle to raise funds to purchase equipment , as it's not all funded by WAST, and for many years struggled to get a communication system for the schemes that was affordable and workable."
The Argus asked South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and WAST for more details on the role of a community responder including how many hours they would have to work, what training would be provided and how the role would differ from the Community First Responder volunteer scheme.
Both organisations failed to respond.