Harold Park mum Pamela Chamberlain, who volunteers with London Ambulance Service, on life as a ‘community responder’

Pamela Chamberlain

Pamela Chamberlain - Credit: Archant

If you ever need medical attention in the Harold area, there’s a good chance Pamela Chamberlain will be the first face you see.

She can make it through the door minutes after you phone 999 and bandage wounds, give people oxygen, perform CPR, use a defibrillator and identify someone who’s had a stroke.

But she’s not a paramedic – in fact, she delivers parcels by day and possessed no medical training until September.

Mum-of-two Pamela works for four hours a week as a “community responder” – a volunteer for the London Ambulance Service.

Based at her house in Ingreway, Harold Park, she covers a two-mile radius around Harold Park, Harold Hill and Harold Wood – using her detailed knowledge of the local streets to get to emergencies in minutes.


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She aims to be first through the door after people call 999, and as well as carrying out basic first aid she also calms people down while they wait for the ambulance to arrive – which can be vital if someone’s panicking.

“We aren’t sent instead of an ambulance,” Pamela explained. “We’re sent because we can get there first.

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“I got called to a house on my own road last week so I was there in one minute.

“If somebody’s having chest pains or difficulty breathing, as soon as they see you it helps calm them down. It has a very good effect just having somebody there talking to you.”

It’s a role Pamela didn’t know existed until she saw a newspaper ad – and then her mind went back to something that happened to her son.

“When he was about 18, my son Ricky witnessed somebody having a cardiac arrest in a park,” she explained. “He told me afterwards how useless he felt and I thought I’d feel pretty useless in that situation, too.

“I’ve heard people whose relatives have collapsed, on the phone to the ambulance people who are talking them through what to do.

“If it were me, I wouldn’t want to be hanging on a phone listening to what they are telling me – I’d want to know what to do without asking. I think people should know.”

So she got in touch with the ambulance service and booked herself onto a course over three weekends.

“You take a lot in on those days and then you have an assessment at the end,” said Pamela, 55. “You learn how to use a defibrillator, give CPR, administer oxygen, take a pulse and bandage wounds. You have to learn about the LAS’s forms and what has to be filled in, which helps when the paramedics do arrive. You learn how to detect a stroke and how to deal with seizures.

“I’ve got no medical experience – I actually distribute parcels.

“But I used to be a courier I know a lot of my local area like the back of my hand.

“Some people have sat navs, but I generally follow my nose – which is a lot quicker.”

If you’re interested in following in Pamela’s footsteps you can head down to an information evening at St John Ambulance HQ in Albert Road, Romford, on April 30. It runs from 7pm until 9pm.

And if you decide you want to sign up, St John Ambulance and the LAS will give you the training, equipment and support to help you save lives.

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