Voluntary Aid Societies (VAS). Some of you reading this may well be part of them, Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, St. Andrews Ambulance. I am. Which one is not important. Indeed it was getting involved with the VAS during my first degree that got me into EMS in the first place. However, being part of one of these organisations is often frowned upon by many in EMS. It’s almost a stigma and many think less of you because of it.
Now I do understand some of the reasons why. I see the good, the bad and the downright worrying within my organisation. While this can also be said of EMS (I’m sure we can all identify one or more individuals we would NOT want turning up to us or our families!) the appears to be a higher concentration in VAS possibly because the need to make up numbers and only having those who volunteer to do it with. So you sometimes take what you can get and have less room to be picky. Not a good excuse but a reason none the less. I have also been informed by some friends in London that during the ambulance strike back in 1989 St. John Ambulance volunteers worked and this was seen as them working against the strike so there is still some animosity from that.
However, I have found that, along with the bad and the ugly there is indeed some good in what these organisations do. Some support that ambulance services in times of need providing ambulances and crews to cover some of the lower grade 999 calls freeing up frontline NHS services to attend the higher priority calls. Some NHS trusts favour one VAS over the other, some don’t work with any. They also provide first aid provision at thousands of events every week. Volunteers. Not being paid. Surely that has to be commended? I personally don’t do much front line direct care (I do that at work) instead choosing to give my time in other ways within the organisation utilising some of my other non-clinical skills. But I also get something back from all this. I get courses which improve my skills from leadership to recognised planning, major incident and training qualifications which I can add to my CPD and aid my career progression.
But, what I wanted to know is this: Do VAS have a place within EMS? And if so what? Should we be actively working with them to raise their standards? Should they be confined to providing first aid at fetes? Should they be providing support to ambulance services? Do they have the skills to be answering 999 calls?
Well, I look forward to seeing what people think.