When Joe Robinson, 19, starts his shift he gets into a car kitted out with lifesaving equipment and logs in with the ambulance service.
He waits for the dispatcher in the control room to check his qualification level and assign a suitable job.
Then, equipped with a defibrillator, oxygen supply and other medical tools, he drives to a patient and supports them until the ambulance arrives.
Joe is the youngest member of North East Derbyshire Community First Responders, a group of almost 20 volunteers which was set up in October 2019.
The team includes NHS workers, teachers and even retail workers who have been responding to emergency calls on behalf of East Midlands Ambulance Service for almost three years.
Joe said: “What is really good about this job is that it gives people a sense of confidence and hope that help is here now and more help is coming. We support the ambulance crews to be able to get to the most poorly patients quicker and we provide help to the people who need it the most.”
The team attends patients with a variety of emergency issues ranging from breathing difficulties and chest pains and going all the way up to people suffering from seizures or cardiac arrests.
Sometimes the volunteers just monitor the patients and provide them with emotional support before the ambulance arrives, but often they perform CRP, supply oxygen or use the defibrillator, which in many cases proves to be life saving.
Joe has been a part of North East Derbyshire Community First Responders since the group was created.
At the beginning he was managing the Facebook and Twitter accounts, but underwent training and since February he has been attending patients as well.
He tries to commit at least eight hours a week for volunteering but he has to balance it with his full time job for East Midlands Ambulance Service, where he is responsible for taking 999 calls.
He said: “For NHS I usually work two day shifts, two night shifts and have four days off. On my days off I usually pick up one eight hour shift with First Aid Responders, but depending on how busy it is, I am happy to stay longer for twelve, thirteen hours.
“I really like being able to see patients face to face and being able to provide help as a first person on the scene. I know that often the treatment we provide is life saving.”
However some of the jobs First Responders attend are very distressing and they are unable to save the patient’s life.
There are times when all they can do is reassure them and support them.
Joe said: “I attended quite a few cardiac arrests, but the first one that I went to is a really strong memory for me. I remember how quickly I managed to get to the scene and start CRP, provide a defibrillator, and supply oxygen.
“The patient was so distraught and me just being there reassured him a lot.
“We do our best for everybody and help them survive but the reality is it doesn’t always happen.
“However we make sure that support is always there. Both families of patients and ambulance crews who come after us are always supportive of our efforts and we know we’ve done everything possible to save the patient’s life.”
Supporting people in emergency situations and seeing them die can be incredibly stressful and the team support each other.
Joe added: “We meet, talk a lot with each other, look out for one another outside of volunteering. We are all very close and it feels like being a part of a family.”
The group has not welcomed many new members since 2019, mainly because of Covid restrictions, but local people who can commit at least 16 hours a month and are happy to undergo relevant training can join.
Joe said: “Covid put a hole in recruitment not just in our scheme, but across all the similar groups in the area. Now we are we are trying to expand as much as possible to help even more people.”
North East Derbyshire Community First Responders cooperate closely with the NHS but as a voluntary organization they do not receive any statutory funding.
To maintain the equipment the volunteers have to apply for grants and ask local businesses for support. Last year, they ran a charity raffle at Christmas, which helped raise the funds needed to keep their emergency car running for a few months.
They plan to organize another raffle this Christmas, but need to raise £8,000 before the end of October in order to keep the car on the road for another year.
So far about £2,500 has been donated on their Just Giving page.
Joe said: “We respond in a uniform, which is very similar to the ambulance service and some people put us under the umbrella of being funded by the NHS. But the truth is we are a volunteer group and we need the funds to keep a very important vehicle on the road.
“It is crucial for ambulance crews and it is saving lives, especially with how busy services are at the moment and how much the NHS has been affected by Covid. Each donation will mean a lot for us.”