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three of our volunteer responders

Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) dispatchers can now draw upon support of Devon Air Ambulance’s Volunteer Responder Scheme 

three of our volunteer responders

Josh, Lee and Darren, Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care who are volunteering on the scheme

Devon Air Ambulance Advanced Paramedics in Critical Care not only dedicate their work to bringing advanced care to patients in time-critical situations, but they are now donating their own free time to the cause too. 

The Devon Air Ambulance Volunteer Responder Scheme (VRS) is a new initiative where three of Devon Air Ambulance’s Specialist and Advanced Paramedics in Critical Care are volunteering to support core emergency services across Devon.  

These three emergency responders are about to begin a twelve-month trial to determine the feasibility of introducing a permanent volunteer responder team within the organisation.  

This means that HEMS dispatchers can now draw upon off-duty highly skilled clinicians to be the first responders in an emergency situation that they are close to. 

Enhancing the first response network

Devon is already fortunate enough to have a dedicated network of volunteer emergency doctors who are part of BASICS Devon.  

Like Devon Air Ambulance, BASICS is also a charity that receives no Government funding and relies solely on donations. The BASICS doctors provide immediate access to specialist medical care. They also respond in their own vehicles, anytime, anywhere in Devon and all have undertaken extensive specialist training in the complex and challenging arena of pre-hospital medical care.

Simon Scott-Hayward, Chair of Trustees at BASICS Devon said:  

We’re extremely happy that Devon Air Ambulance has been able to launch their own Volunteer Responder Scheme, this ultimately means that an additional specialist, emergency medical team is ready to respond to the critically-ill or injured across Devon when every second counts. In the past year we have seen an increased demand for our service of 30% so have no doubt that DAA’s volunteer responders will also be kept very busy.

3 volunteer responders with kit and car

Our 3 volunteer crew members with their vehicles

Who are the Volunteer Responders?

Lee Hilton, Darren Goodwin & Josh Barker will attend emergency calls outside of their normal working hours on a completely voluntary basis. They will work closely with Devon Air Ambulance clinicians, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) colleagues, and other volunteer doctors from the British Association for Immediate Care (BASICS) if they are also attending the incident.  

What can the VRS team deliver?

The team of VRS responders are either qualified Specialist or Advanced Paramedics in Critical Care and will be able to deliver their full scope of practice as they do in their employed role which includes, but is not limited to, advanced airway management, sedation, advanced trauma care procedures and support with complex clinical decision making. The team will support existing enhanced and critical care service in delivering the best available care to our patients in their time of need.   

How will the VRS team respond?

VRS responders will each notify the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) Dispatchers based in the SWASFT control room when they are available to volunteer, which means they could then be contacted by HEMS to respond to an emergency incident in the same way as they currently dispatch the fleet of Devon Air Ambulance’s other emergency vehicles.  

The difference will be that the VRS team will use their own vehicles to respond. This requires the responder to gain appropriate insurance for the purposes of emergency responding, together with ensuring their vehicles are fully serviceable and fit for the purpose of their intended use. Each volunteer responder also needs to be equipped with much of the same lifesaving equipment carried on their usual critical care cars and helicopters. In addition, volunteers need to be able to reach the scene safely and this requires the use of blue lights and sirens.   

How much does it cost?

It costs approximately £5,500 to fully equip one of our volunteers with everything they need. Devon Air Ambulance supporters have enabled the charity to fund this kit. Devon Air Ambulance is one of just a few air ambulances to launch a scheme of this type and plan to report on the life-saving difference they will make to local communities in Devon. 

How do I learn more about the VRS trial?

A detailed service evaluation will run concurrently alongside the trial phase to ensure all important data is captured to maximise the success of the scheme. Headline facts and mission figures will be shared on the website in due course.

We know you will join us in wishing Lee, Darren and Josh well, as they embark on a trial which will further enhance the provision of time-critical care across Devon.

Read more about the scheme 

Devon Air Ambulance VRS car identification

Look out for this logo in our volunteer vehicles