LOCAL MSP John Lamont has called for more support for First Responder volunteers who operate in Berwickshire and the rest of the Borders.
First Responders assist the work of the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) by providing medical emergency cover out with local medical centre hours and only a few weeks ago came in for peraise from the communities of Longformacus, Cranshaws & Ellemford when they braved wintry conditions to come to the aid of three residents who’d take ill.
This can severely reduce response times to emergencies, especially following the withdrawal of ambulance services from some areas of the Borders which has left some facing a 30-40 minute wait.
Despite providing this valuable service, those who volunteer as a First Responder do so for free, with no contribution for fuel or other vehicle running costs.
Although training for the First Responders team is supplied by the Scottish Ambulance Service, all other costs and expenses is provided by donations from the local community.
Many responders are now also being faced with increasing insurance premiums as insurers charge them more for having to carry oxygen cylinders in their car with them to emergencies.
As such, John Lamont has called for the SAS to add First Responders to their insurance scheme to cover the costs.
Mr Lamont said: “Having a fast response time to a medical emergency can often be the difference between life and death, but this has become harder to achieve with recent reductions in ambulance cover in our region.
“The help provided by First Responder volunteers can often severely reduce response times and has no doubt saved many lives.
“However, despite the great work done by these individuals they are currently having to pay over the odds in order to carry this duty out. Not only do they cover their own fuel and vehicle costs, they are now also facing increasing insurance premiums for carrying oxygen cylinders with them.
“I have a huge amount of admiration for anyone who chooses to give up such a large amount of their time to this cause, and I am disappointed that they are receiving such little support to do it.
“We cannot risk losing any individual from the First Responders service and something must be done to help cover the financial burden.”
“That is why I have written to the Scottish Ambulance Service to ask them to take action, and to add members of the First Responders to their insurance scheme.
“It would only be needed to cover the times when they are attending emergencies, and could greatly help to reduce the costs to those providing this help. This would be the least they could do to help support these dedicated volunteers, and hopefully ensure that the service continues to help save lives for many more years.”