The Dacia Duster is fast becoming the vehicle of choice for Community First Responders (CFR) following South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) adding six of the robust, dependable, SUVs to its fleet.
After its fundraising arm, the South Western Ambulance Charity, successfully secured a £128,000 grant from NHS Charities Together for new CFR vehicles, the Trust opted for the Dacia Duster after being influenced by the positive experiences of South Central Ambulance Charity, which in 2020 bought 40 for use by its Community First Responders.
Together with its proven capability and dependability as a CFR vehicle, the value and space of the Dacia Duster were key drivers in the Trust’s purchasing decision. All of its Dusters were specified in Essential trim with the petrol TCe 90 4×2 drivetrain.
The Trust’s volunteers will use the Dusters to attend medical emergencies within their local communities, often arriving ahead of an emergency vehicle to administer care and potentially life-saving treatment. Covering the entire South West region, individual Dusters are based in Dorset, Devon, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Somerset and Wiltshire. Together with full Community First Responder kit, which includes a defibrillator and observation equipment, each Duster also includes a Raizer lifting chair to assist patients who have had a fall.
The Dusters will be operating on the road constantly. In the last 12 months, the Trust’s Community First Responders were mobilised approximately 24,000 times, attending medical emergencies such as: cardiac arrests, chest pains, breathing difficulties and patients who had fallen.
In addition to serving as responder vehicles and attending callouts that can require everything from the provision of life-saving care to simply reassuring a patient, the Dusters will help the Trust in several other ways. These include being a Welfare Support Car, which can be deployed at short notice during periods of extreme pressure to support the welfare of clinical crews, and an Incident Support Car, which sees the Duster used to support Operational staff at major incidents by means of welfare support to clinical crews. Importantly, they will support the training of new volunteers through observer shifts, having the space to allow two Community First Responders to attend an incident together.
With their eye-catching and official South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust livery, the Dusters will also serve as Public Engagement Cars. By attending and being recognised at public events, they will raise awareness of the Trust and the important role that volunteer Community First Responders play.
David Sale, the Community Responder Officer for the Dorset region, said: “When the project team evaluated which vehicles would be suitable, the Duster met our requirements and needs. Its competitive cost allowed us to make the grant go as far as possible, while also providing our CFR volunteers with a safe, comfortable and spacious car in which to carry out their role. Having seen how the Duster has performed for South Central Ambulance Service CFRs, we could trust it to be both durable and suitable for the role. A great deal of the area we cover is rural but the 4×2 version is perfectly capable for our requirements and while we have only had the Dusters for a short time, we are already keen to try and add more to our CFR vehicle fleet.”
Will Warrender, Chief Executive of SWASFT, added: “The funding received by the South Western Ambulance Charity is enabling us to better support our volunteer heroes, who, in turn provide incredible support to the communities they serve. The six cars that are being provided through the charity will enable Community First Responders to respond to emergencies across a wider geographic area and support the training of new volunteers through observer shifts.”
Luke Broad, Dacia Brand Director for the UK, commented: “The Duster is well-known for its robustness, value and versatility, and it’s great to see that, as well as appealing to thousands of retail customers every year, it’s now fast carving a niche for itself as the perfect and proven Community First Responder Vehicle. It’s clear that the Duster works in every sense for a growing number of Trusts, and we’re exceptionally pleased to see that it’s helping them to optimise their operating costs while enhancing the care that they can provide in their communities.”