Henley CFR Car



Henley CFR - Our Beginnings

The original initiative for the formation of a first responder group in Henley came from Alistair Price in 1999, prompted by two things. Firstly, he was attending a First Aid Course in Henley lead by Ann Sylvester then of Brook End Drive and secondly, he read an article about a Heart Start machine used by volunteers in Enderby, Leicestershire. This apparently was the first responder group in the country and Ann said to Alistair that such machines were vital to saving lives of heart attack victims.

Alistair had just been made redundant and decided to make Henley the second UK town to have defibrillators and a responder team. As a member of Henley's Court Leet he raised the idea at a Court meeting early in 2000, suggesting the Court should have a charitable link. This was agreed at the beginning of 2000 an active and successful fundraising campaign was launched, headed by Alistair Price, Alan Robson (then High Bailiff) and the late John Brealey on behalf of the Court Leet.

The objective was to be the establishment of a team of trained people able to provide rapid response to medical incidents before the arrival of an ambulance. The group was christened "Henley Heartstart". The local MP James Plaskitt helped with House of Commons memorabilia and a visit to the Houses of Parliament. Funds were raised by golf days, canal trips , collecting boxes and other activities.

By the end of 2000, £10,000 had been raised. The first of three defibrillator units was bought during the year and placed at the Henley Medical Centre. Training was provided by individuals from the ambulance service and the team strength eventually rose to about 22. Within one year from the start this team was providing 7 day/24 hour cover. Members "signed up" for specific duty shifts of variable lengths and the rota was created and managed by Jan Crathorne, whose husband Peter served as chairman of the group. Heart Start was officially launched at the beginning of 2001, with the driving force being Peter and Jan. Publicity and fundraising events were held and a healthy fund surplus was built up.

Over time it became difficult to maintain the required pace of training of new members, particularly in the light of the raised technical standards called for. This precipitated a slow but steady decline in membership, which ended up as three people - Sara Butler, June Griffiths and Sue Warner - covering between them whatever time they could. By 2006 the Court Leet was holding about £5,000 in its Heartstart account and it was felt that this should be ring-fenced for its originally intended purpose. With this in mind a new body, the "Friends of Henley Heartstart", was created to hold the funds in a separate account and the Court Leet relinquished its direct interest. The funds continued to grow at a modest rate, thanks to collecting boxes placed round the town.

In 2011, John Pudney volunteered to create the new body, Henley Community First Responders, under West Midlands Ambulance Service guidelines. In the intervening years the process of recruiting and training members has evolved very significantly and the legal position of volunteers has been greatly clarified.

The residual funds of Heartstart provided a considerable initial impetus to "Henley CFR", enabling the new body to purchase its own vehicle and the other essential medical and communication equipment.