Scheme enables first responders to continue saving lives

The group received £6,000 from the Communities Fund

National Forest Responders team photo

A voluntary group that respond to medical emergencies has thanked us for helping it to save lives in Leicestershire during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Communities Fund was launched so that organisations were able to continue to carry out vital work across the county. It saw 160 community and voluntary groups receive a slice of a £1.5m pot.

Now, we are celebrating the selfless acts of kindness that have made a huge difference to the lives of people in Leicestershire since the outbreak of COVID-19 as part of Volunteer’s Week (1 to 7 June). 

The National Forest Responders is one of those organisations. The small group of trained ambulance medics received £6,000 to help them continue going out to emergency 999 calls ahead of East Midlands Ambulance Service when required.

Ben Bell, the treasurer for the forest responders and a medic who covers the area between Ashby and Markfield, said that the biggest impact the team had faced was the ‘inability to fundraise’.

He said: “It costs around £2,000 for new kits, which we needed for our additional responders, to help cope with an increase in demand.

“Before COVID-19 we would bag pack at supermarkets and go to events to fund-raise, but that had to stop. It left a massive hole for us.

“It was a huge relief when the county council accepted our Communities Fund bid. It means the money we do have can go towards running costs.”

The money received from the fund went towards purchasing three new kit bags, which include items such as a blood pressure machine, defibrillator and thermometer. 

Ben, who works in the IT department for Next, said that the equipment has already been put to good use. 

He said: “I’ve received around 40 call outs this month, which is an expected amount.

"However, since COVID-19 we’ve attended more cardiac arrests and got through more oxygen and defibrillator pads.

“The new equipment means that our three new trainees do not have to be retrained once the restrictions have been lifted. They are able to respond to emergencies when required.”

Now, the National Forest Responders are looking to expand and recruit more volunteers to help save lives. 

Ben said: “Last month I revived someone who would not be here now without my help. We are making a substantial difference in Leicestershire.

“I would like to double the number of volunteers that we have to make sure any gaps we have are covered.

“People who are interested should visit for more information.”


It’s great to see that groups are doing all they can to keep communities thriving during these challenging times and I’m proud that we’ve been a part of it.

“It’s never been more important for communities to band together and support each other. These awards have helped groups such as the National Forest Responders to continue their crucial work and step up activities to support vulnerable people and those isolating.

“I’d like to thank our volunteers and community groups for their fantastic work and for keeping the community spirit going and would urge those making a difference to celebrate the difference they are making in their area.


As part of Volunteer’s Week, the council is urging people to share what difference volunteering is making. Post your stories and pictures to the council’s social media accounts using the hashtag #VolunteersWeek

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