Have you heard of Norfolk Accident Rescue Service?
PUBLISHED: 12:49 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:49 26 June 2018
Steve Adams 2018 : 07398 238853
For almost 50 years the Norfolk Accident Rescue Service has come to the aid of the dangerously ill or injured - but many have not even heard of it
The radio bursts into life; paramedic Ryan Warwick pauses to listen for a second, then continues the conversation; the call involves the air ambulance, not the glossy critical care vehicle we are sitting in at Norwich’s Longwater ambulance station.
Ryan is one of a team of people who make up NARS, Norfolk Accident Rescue Service, the charity which provides high-level emergency care for those unfortunate enough to have been involved in a serious accident or suffering a dangerous medical emergency. In the words of NARS volunteer doctor Jamie Crawford: “We basically bring A&E resources out of the department and to the patient.”
These are the people called in when the situation demands training and skills at the next level. They are highly trained volunteer doctors and paramedics able to use more advanced life-saving techniques; some can even perform roadside surgical procedures.
They have been providing support to the NHS emergency services for almost 50 years; yet despite its symbiotic relationship with the public body NARS is almost entirely funded by charitable donations raised in Norfolk. “It’s a local charity for local people run by local people,” says Ryan.
Those donations pay for the impressive vehicle we’re sitting, a new VW Transporter, callsign Medic 22, heavily modified for purpose and carrying a payload of hi-tech medical gear. Ryan opens the rear door and takes me through the contents.
If I’m honest, many of the medico-technical descriptions sail over my head, but even a dimwit like me can understand the premise – this kit saves lives.
It also drains bank accounts. Ryan lifts out a small white machine, a defibrillator.
While the basic machine is familiar to many – plenty of communities in Norfolk now have one within a few minutes in case of emergency – this is on another level. It can for instance restart a stopped heart, keep it going and even control heart rates.
“When people give us money we have two responsibilities. The first is to spend it wisely and the second is to stretch it as far as we can.” To that end NARS will often buy equipment that has been reconditioned by the manufacturers, saving a lot of cash.
Even so, the defibrillator runs out at £18,000. Next Ryan shows me a ventilator, a model considerably more sophisticated than those carried in standard ambulances.
“It beeps a lot,” he jokes, “and is horrendously expensive. It has lots and lots of different functionality.” He details what it can do – it’s a long and impressive list and believe me, if you were having trouble breathing you would want to be hooked up to one of these. It also costs a hill of money at £16,000.
Then there is Lucas, a mechanical CPR device able to keep up life-saving chest compressions indefinitely; £12,500 to you.
There are warming drawers to keep intravenous fluids at body temperature and drugs at the correct operating temperature, plus the emergency backpacks, all carefully packed identically so that whoever is using them can find things instantly. Throw in an ultrasound machine at another £12,000 and you have over £50,000 worth of equipment in the back.
Aside from the impressive kit list, NARS is about the people involved. Ryan is the vice-chairman of the group and clinical lead; a former soldier with the Royal Army Medical Corps, he served in Bosnia and Iraq, for the second Gulf War.
“It’s more than a job; it’s a calling, it’s a passion,” he says. “It is something I was always meant to do. If you ask how I fell into it I couldn’t tell you.”
It is an all-consuming passion; a standard night-shift as an NHS paramedic is backed up with 40-50 hours a week with NARS, and the final throes of a masters degree in critical care which the organisation is putting him and six others through. It is a passion he shares with his wife Pammy, who is also involved in NARS.
Like the other volunteers his car is equipped with blue lights and packed with kit ready for that middle-of-the-night call to an emergency.
To fill any spare moments the couple, who moved here have a smallholding populated with five dogs, four cats, 20 chickens, three gees and four alpacas “I had a day off once and I didn’t know what to do with it!” he jokes.
The same commitment he has is shared with the other volunteers I meet. As if working as a paramedic was not stressful enough these men and women dedicate themselves to going the extra mile to bring us the very best possible care when we most need it, when it is a matter of life and death.
It might be a bit of a contradiction to say that you’d never want to meet Ryan or any of his NARS colleagues professionally – but if you had to, you’d be very glad you did.
Paramedic Nigel Strange is working to help the charity’s regular income by offering training to GPs, dentists and others in the private sector.
“We’ve had a good response,” he says. “We have five or six GPs who use us regularly and the numbers are increasing.”
Those who use the NARS training tend to come back for annual updates and refresher courses, which gives them a small but steady source of income which Nigel hopes will increase in the next couple of years.
How you can help
One way of helping NARS is to include a legacy in your will or codicil. Legacies can provide the charity with ‘game-changing’ income and allow it to implement significant development projects.
NARS has teamed up with Simper Law Ltd to offer supporters a free will-writing service in return for considering a bequest to NARS in your will. For more information contact Kim Simper at Simper Law Ltd in Norwich, mentioning the NARS legacy scheme.
01603 672222. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.simperlaw.com. Simper Law Ltd, 72 Thorpe Road, Norwich, NR1 1BA
Of course NARS is always happy to receive donations through the traditional fund-raising routes. NARS will also give a talk to groups and welcomes volunteers, clinically trained or otherwise.