St John Ambulance Brigade of Ireland

Southern Command


Importance of Voluntary Ambulance Services Print E-mail

Voluntary Ambulance ServicesSt. John Ambulance and our sister organisations, the Irish Red Cross, the Order of Malta and the Civil Defense play an important role in the pre-hospital emergency services in Ireland. To understand our worth, one must look at our activities both in the area of training and public duty.

Every year, we train hundreds of people in first aid. In fact, the "voluntaries" are the primary providers of first aid training in Ireland. It is a well documented fact that prompt first aid can dramatically improve the long term prognosis of a casualty. Early intervention can prevent death in the most severe of cases, but can also prevent life long disability. While, of course, this is of unquantifiable benefit to the casualty and their kin, it is also undoubtedly of financial benefit to the state. In less serious cases, a basic knowledge of first aid within the community can reduce the queues in our A&E departments and the pressure on the statutory ambulance service. Often people present at A&E or call for an emergency ambulance with non life threatening injuries that could easily be treated by competent first aiders. Those who attend our courses can render this level of care.

The importance of first aid is recognised in legislation. Employers are obliged under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations 1993 to make adequate and appropriate First Aid provision for their workforce. It is required that someone is able to undertake First Aid duties at all times when people are at work. Our courses allow employers to meet this obligation. Effective first aid in the workplace can also reduce the time lost to hospital visits or absence due to injury.

On the public duty front, members of St. John Ambulance and our sister organisations are on duty every day of the year. Cumulatively, we provide thousands of hours of service. Whether it be at sporting fixtures, concerts, community events, or religious ceremonies, uniformed first aiders work in the background to ensure that everyone enjoys the event. Organisers constantly tell us that their events can only go ahead because of our ability to put uniformed first aiders in place. While other private organisations offer a similar service, the cost of such is often prohibitive. We provide an inexpensive alternative while always striving to put an appropriate level of care in place at any given event.

Another aspect of our work that is sometimes overlooked is the fact that we are in constant readiness to assist other agencies in the event of a major incident. In Cork, we form part of the Major Incident Plan. Even though our members are unpaid volunteers, we guarantee to be able to turn out our fleet within set time limits. This is a credit to our members. Over the years, we have been called out on several occasions. We have an extremely healthy relationship with the emergency services in Cork City and we hope to continue this unparalleled level of co-operation into the future. In fact, some of our members are actually working for the emergency services in Cork City. Through this mutual co-operation and training events, our peers in the full-time services gain an appreciation of our strengths and weaknesses. They often provide constructive feedback on the way we operate. All this allows us to improve our capability to help them out in a time of crisis.

Some believe that the importance of voluntaries has diminished. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our members train hundreds of people in first aid every year. We also provide an unparalleled level of service to event organisers, without which many of the events that we know and love could not take place. We are in constant readiness for any major emergency. We believe, most ardently, that no one should suffer from the want of first aiders in the community. This is as valid an aspiration now as when our organization was formed over one hundred years ago. We will continue to do everything in our power to make it a reality.