An award-winning first responder team has suspended its activity in a row over training.
Barmouth Community First Responders said it was “with great sadness” that they have to close their Facebook page and suspend their activities.
The team received the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service award in 2022 for their hard work during the Covid pandemic helping the elderly and vulnerable by delivering food parcels and prescriptions. Also last year team members Scott Moncrieff and Damian Williams represented the team at a Buckingham Palace garden party last year, given to thank members of their public for their extraordinary work in their local communities.
Posting the decision to cease Barmouth Community First Responders, Scott said: “It’s with great sadness that we have to close the Barmouth responder Facebook page, and suspend the team activities.
“Over the past 15+ years the team has had its members come and go due to personal and private reasons. Unfortunately like other teams along the coast we have struggled for members. We were running the team with basically two members.
“I had to stand down for a period of time due to a serious medical condition that restricted my fitness to undertake certain tasks, likewise with Damian Williams working full-time in an industry that became extremely busy during the summer months, we both found it difficult if not sometimes unmanageable to undertake the amount of courses and requirements that the ambulance service were asking ourselves to undertake.
“After long deliberation, and chatting with Damian, it was decided the team could no longer go on with such demands being asked of us with the ongoing training.
“This was a difficult decision to come to, but after a conversation with the ambulance service yesterday (Thursday, 26 October) informing both Damian and myself that we had to reapply to become responders and undergo full training, enough was enough. They need to understand that we both run businesses and our time is also precious to ourselves. The training is unpaid and lasts a week. This does not take into consideration the continuing refresher training, and other course work that has to be done online, and attending other training sessions.
“We are fully aware that training is necessary to keep our skills updated. This was never the problem, the problem was most of this was during the summer months with what seemed to be a lack of understanding or sympathy. Taking a week out of work that would have been unpaid is simply not manageable having a family to support.
“Sadly, this felt like just another let down in regards to the years of service that the Barmouth team had put in. Several years ago we had fantastic support and understanding, but like everything in life people move on and that support and understanding seemed to fall away.
“During Covid the team offered our community a prescription delivery service that subsequently got the team the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Damian and I attended Buckingham Palace to receive thanks. However the team did not receive any recognition from the ambulance service or even a letter of and congratulations for becoming the first community first responder team to receive such an award.
“If the ambulance service intends to continue and expand the first responder voluntary service they seriously need to look at the demands and requests they are putting on volunteers! It is clear that the ambulance service itself is just not coping with the amount of work they are being asked to do and with communities like ourselves being stripped of our resources, community first responder teams will become vitally important. I urge the ambulance service to consider the direction they are taking.
“We hope that in the future a new first responder team will be set up in town to cover our community and its surroundings. As ex-first responders we will be happy to offer any support that is required to help the team along, with any advice we can offer.”
Scott said he and Damian and other first responders from the area may still be able to offer support to the community.
“It’s early days but watch this space,” he added.
The Welsh Ambulance Service thanked the team and stressed the importance of up-to-date training.
Lee Brooks, Executive Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Our volunteers are an important cog in the Welsh Ambulance Service wheel adding value to local communities.
“A growing number of volunteers give up their time to support the Welsh Ambulance Service.
“Volunteer Car Service Drivers use their own vehicles to transport people to routine hospital appointments, while Community First Responders attend 999 calls and administer first aid in the precious first minutes before an ambulance arrives.
“As a Trust, we strive for first-class clinical care, always.
“It’s really important for Community First Responders in particular to ensure they’re up-to-date with all of the relevant training, given that they’re delivering care to often very unwell patients.
“We expect this as a Trust and our communities expect it too.
“We respect the decision of our Barmouth colleagues to stand down and would like to extend a huge thanks for their hard work and commitment while responding, as well as their offer to support new volunteers in the future.
“Meanwhile, we’re making good progress against our Volunteer Strategy, which sets out how we will better integrate volunteers into our workforce and how we will better support them to deliver the role.”