Ambulance service aims to use locals for first response

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) is looking for volunteers in Innerleithen to learn basic first aid and lifesaving skills.

A meeting has been arranged at St Ronan’s Primary next Wednesday to explain to public spirited individuals what is involved in setting up a so-called Community First Responder Scheme in the Peeblesshire town.

Since the launch of the initiative several years ago, the SAS has established more than 100 of the schemes across Scotland.

Under the schemes, the service trains community volunteers and provides appropriate medical equipment so that they can deliver an early response to patients while the ambulance is on its way. The responders are deployed via the ambulance service’s emergency medical dispatch centre.

“First responders are asked to attend serious and life- threatening emergencies, such as when people are experiencing breathing difficulties, chest pains, cardiac arrest or unconsciousness.” explained Jill Keddie, an SAS paramedic.

“They are not sent to road collisions or traumatic injuries or anything outwith their training. An emergency ambulance is always dispatched first and the role of the responder is to support the patient while the ambulance is on its way, providing a really important community service.

“Speed of intervention can be critical when responding to 999 calls and this initiative creates an even faster response for patients and is co-ordinated with our existing ambulance resources. In a medical emergency, simple first aid skills, like making sure an airway is clear, often save a life.

“The programme is an enhancement to our existing ambulance resources and each scheme works locally with our staff to ensure ongoing refresher training in basic life-saving skills and the use of medical equipment.

“Advances in technology mean many interventions which were previously performed only by highly trained individuals are now available to people with much less training. These include small, easy-to-operate external defibrillators or shock boxes and lightweight oxygen delivery systems.”

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Jill at or on 07871 240 155.

Wednesday’s explanatory meeting, to which all are welcome, begins at 7.30pm.