“Every minute that passes without cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation, a patient’s chances of survival decrease by 14 per cent.”

That’s the stark reality facing South Central Ambulance Service manager Dick Tracey, the man who co-ordinates the region’s band of 300 trained Community First Responders (CFR).

He firmly believes that more responders will mean more lives are saved and is now appealing for volunteers from all backgrounds and ages to come forward and be trained.

He said: “Our CFRs are quickly on the scene with life-saving equipment including automated defibrillators.

And not only do they save vital minutes in responding to an immediately life threatening medical emergency while an ambulance response is en route to the patient, their early intervention can ensure that a person recovers, and is able to return to work and to resume a normal and fulfilling life.”

The concept of first responders was born in America by Seattle physician Dr Richard Cummins who discovered that if a series of events takes place in a set sequence, a heart attack victim has a greater chance of survival.

These events, known as the “Chain of Survival” are: early recognition (raising the alarm), early CPR, early defibrillation and early intervention (hospital) and when put into practice, can improve the pre-hospital survival rate by 25-30 per cent.

CFRs are trained to provide links two and three.

Mr Tracey continued: “Oxfordshire’s CFRs are aged between 20 and 70 and come from all walks of life.

“At the moment we have 300 CFRs in the county. But I would like to double that to 600.

“It’s a massive task, and our biggest obstacle is peoples’ misconceptions about the role; they think it’s too difficult and that they are not qualified.

“But we have people fully trained by us and giving up time each month to be first on the scene when things happen in their communities – and they are saving peoples’ lives.”

Responders attend cardiac arrest, strokes, choking, diabetic emergencies, breathing difficulties and children aged one year and over.

“But an ambulance will always be despatched before the CFR.

Mr Tracey said: “I have been working with volunteer CFRs for over 12 years and regard it as a privilege to be involved with such a dedicated group of people.

“I would very much like to hear from others who are interested in joining their ranks.”

To be a responder, you must be over the age of 18 years and while previous first aid or medical training is welcomed, it is not necessary as full training is given. Training in basic life saving skills including the use of an automated defibrillator usually takes place at the ambulance service’s Bicester headquarters over a weekend and is provided free of charge.

For more information, visit southcentralambulance.nhs.uk or call 0800 587 0207.