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How does St John Ambulance help the community in the winter, and all year round?

Leading first aid charity St John Ambulance are out in the community all year round, helping those who are in need of immediate first aid. Their Community First Responders (CFR) are dispatched by their NHS Ambulance Service to 999 emergencies in their own community. They are trained to assess the situation, establish the patient’s medical condition and provide immediate life saving first aid if needed. Sometimes they can simply be a very vital second pair of hands to an ambulance crew when they arrive.

John Newman has been a CFR volunteer for almost 12 years, helping those in his local community when they are in need of first aid, and training new CFRs. Here John talks about what it’s like to be a Community First Responder and how he manages to keep calm in an emergency.

Why I became a Community First Responder

I’ve been a SJA volunteer for over 50 years and I’ve taken on a variety of roles and projects. One of the projects that I was most passionate about was the early development of the use of Automated External Defibrillators by non health care professionals. It’s now great to see that they are a standard piece of equipment on every duty. It’s so rewarding to know that we are taking healthcare to the patient, whilst also assisting our hard-pressed ambulance service.

What I'm proud of as a Community First Responder

As a CFR it’s rewarding when a resuscitation attempt is successful. Coming from a small town, being stopped in the street and thanked by grateful relatives and patients makes my job worthwhile. As the CFR programme manager for London it is satisfying to see the expansion of the scheme, although we could really do with many more CFRs as they make such a difference. As a course trainer I can’t resist a smile when I see the pride of a nervous new recruit who masters a very complex competence assessment and it makes me extremely proud when I hear of one of our newly qualified trainees who has successfully helped to save a life.

There's no such thing as a typical day as a Community First Responder

The best thing about being a CFR is that no day is the same, and I can operate from my own home. I’ve been called out to people who have mild chest pains, and I’ve also had to deal with life-threatening cases such as a cardiac arrest for a young male in his thirties with his pregnant wife and young children in the next room. Typically, when we get to the scene we will then assess the situation, carry out the required treatment, and when the paramedics arrive we will hand over to them and inform them of our assessment and work with them. They treat us as part of the ambulance service team.

Are there more fatalities over the winter?

Around this time of year people with long-term conditions tend to be more inclined to fall ill and they are more likely to deteriorate during the winter months. I have participated in a series of local events this autumn where we advise groups of older more frail people on how to stay well in winter.

Why become a Community First Responder?

If you’re kind, caring and conscientious, with a reasonable level of fitness and are willing to give up a few hours of your time each week then I would definitely recommend becoming a CFR. No previous knowledge is needed as we will provide training to ensure you have the required skills to undertake the role. The role is also very flexible to allow volunteers to continue with their other activities as we operate from home. We have to have our own cars and we respond at normal road speeds - no flashing lights or sirens! 

For my information on CFRs and St John Ambulance visit