Article - First Responders

I have never known why the 1st of April took on the unenviable role of being April Fool's Day. Indeed, come to think of it, I don't remotely understand why there is such a thing as April Fool's Day in the first place. 

But, be this as it may, this coming 1st of April has two other significant roles. 

The first of these will be well known to any reader of this column who keeps a beady eye on their calendar - because, as it happens, Easter Sunday this year is on 1 April. While we are at it, I should probably admit that I have absolutely no idea what mysterious calculation gives rise to the ever changing date of Easter Sunday - and I really don't think it was very considerate of whoever designed the system to deprive us of a fixed date for this important festival, especially when there is such a straightforward system for Christmas. But I digress. 

The second particular significance of this particular 1st of April is, however, unlikely to be known to any but the most observant observers of the Big Society in operation. The fact - I fear little known to the world as yet, but none the less significant for that - is that we celebrate on 1 April 2018 the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Thorncombe First Responders. 

This wonderful voluntary organisation provides a vehicle which races to the scene when there is an emergency requiring first aid in the remote area around my own village of Thorncombe which lies on the borderland with Dorset, Devon and Somerset, and which is about as far from any ambulance centre as you can get in southern England. The Thorncombe First Responders have saved many people much suffering over the 20 years of it's existence - and have saved a number of people's lives who would otherwise have died an untimely death. So there is much to celebrate, and I hope that there will be fulsome tributes in April to the remarkable work of these dedicated volunteers. 

With the ambulance service under increasing pressure as a result of the increasing numbers of frail elderly people who are liable to require urgent assistance, the workload of the 14 valiant volunteers has gone steadily upwards over the years. I gather that in December, they were handling as much as a call a day. 

So this is not a minor addition to the public services. It is a major contribution by the voluntary sector to maintaining health protection in a highly rural area. 

When it all began, there was considerable doubt in official quarters about whether this (at that time, highly innovative) little organisation would really be able to carry out delicate and difficult tasks under high pressure. But I am glad to say that we are now way beyond that stage, and the statutory services fully recognise and appreciate the work of these volunteers and of the numerous other first responder groups that have come into being elsewhere. 

So 1 April 2018 will be, in more than one sense, a coming of age for the first responders.