The St Andrew’s First Aid charity is stepping into the gap left on Lewis and Harris by the withdrawal last May of the British Red Cross from providing First Aid cover in the Islands.
The organisation was formed in 1882 as St. Andrew’s Ambulance Association by doctors and businessmen in Glasgow who were concerned with the number of people being injured in the industrial city.
Unlike St John Ambulance, founded in the Middle Ages by the Knights Hospitallers to support the Crusades, St Andrew’s growth mirrored the rise of the Labour Movement, with many of the first groups of volunteers established in shipyards, mines and on the railways. It played a major role in ambulance provision for many years. In 2008 it was rebranded as St Andrew’s First Aid to avoid confusion with the Scottish Ambulance Service.
Last night (Tuesday April 25th) volunteers and paid staff of the charity from the Mainland met at the Western Isles Hospital for the official launch of the local service. There are 11 local volunteers at the moment and the group are looking to add more to that number with the aim of having at least 15 available. Several of the group were formerly volunteers with the British Red Cross.
Without trained First Aid cover, it would be very difficult for musical events, agricultural shows and other public events to take place on the Islands as they would need to provide both training and insurance cover. The new St Andrews group has already covered five events, including the Ness 10K and the switching-on of the Christmas Lights in Stornoway.
The group will also provide First Aid demonstrations and training for anyone interested and they hope to work with the emergency services to provide emergency response. In Glasgow, in 2014, six St Andrew’s First Aid volunteers were first on scene when the driver of a bin lorry lost control in Glasgow, killing six people and injuring 15. They subsequently received Brave@Heart Awards from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.