Make becoming a Community First Responder your New Year resolution, the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) urges.
More than 1,000 volunteers are members of 300 first responder groups across the East and the ambulance service wants more.
First responders are trained by EEAST, usually over a weekend, to respond to medical emergencies including cardiac arrests, patients with chest pain, breathing difficulties, allergic reactions and diabetes emergencies.
Because CFRs volunteer where they live or work, they often reach a patient before an ambulance clinician.
The EEAST campaign for more volunteers includes a You Tube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqKdMoGiaPg of mum Shauna Tate explaining why she joined in 2016 after her son was treated for sepsis.
Sudbury has its own branch, with its members backing the region-wide campaign.
Martin Richard joined when the group first started in 2005, having previously volunteered with the Scouts and Royal British Legion.
“Having been a trained first aider for some 50 years I wanted to do more,” he said. “So I became a CFR and have attended many emergencies.
“I have now progressed and help to train new CFRs and represent all CFRs in Suffolk on the Ambulance Trust Volunteer Advisory Forum.”
He is proud of the work he and his fellow volunteers do, not understating its importance.
“In 2016 CFRs attended over 26,000 emergencies and as we are all responding locally from our homes or workplaces we are often the first people to arrive on scene and start to help and treat the patients,” said the 65-year-old who lives in Rosemary Gardens, Sudbury.
“It is incredibly satisfying to know that you are helping people when they need you most. Whatever the outcome you bring support and comfort to not only the patients but also friends, family, bystanders.
“The ambulance service see us as part of the team nowadays and we have access to all of the support structures that the full time staff enjoy.”
How much time the volunteers give is entirely up to them. Mr Richards, a retired regulatory consultant in chemical hazard communication, said any time offered was useful.
New CFRs attend a three day training course and then are assessed.
The branch meets for monthly training, with new recruits often working with a ‘buddy’ until they are confident enough to go it alone.
To find out more information or to apply to become a CFR visit www.eastamb.nhs.uk/join-the-team/community-first-responders.