Letter to the Editor: The increase was a true reflection of the cost to us of providing a safe level of cover

In response to your article ‘Red Cross a casualty in festival charge row (Cambs Times, May 29) I would like to take the opportunity to thank Tom Stiles, who has resigned from the organising committee of the March Summer Festival for his hard work and commitment.

Tom joined the committee not only as a representative of the Red Cross but as a member of the community he has lived in since he was two. He has been involved with the festival for six years, and it was actually this involvement that inspired him to join the Red Cross as a volunteer. As a volunteer he has no involvement in the financial decision-making of the Red Cross and it is a shame that he now feels that his position on the committee is untenable.

It is a legal requirement for public events to have suitable first aid cover for their size and nature. Our staff carried out an assessment based on revised guidelines and previous years’ experience and concluded that the level of cover we had previously provided was no longer safe for a growing, open event with unpredictable numbers.

The increase in charges was a true reflection of the cost to us of providing what we had assessed to be a safe level of cover. In the past we have sent additional first aiders at no extra cost to the organisers, when the event was particularly busy, but this is not sustainable.

Our offers to meet with the organisers to discuss our quote and explain our position have never been taken up. However we appreciate that the organisers felt they were not willing to pay for an increased level of cover, and made a commercial decision to seek an alternative provider.

Clive Lemmon is correct, thankfully, there has not, to date, been a major disaster or situation at the event, but this does not mean it will not happen in the future. It is not as simple as just calling an ambulance were an incident to occur. In the event of a multi-casualty incident, or even an individual having a heart attack, our volunteers are equipped and trained to provide life-saving care for the time it may take for an ambulance to arrive.

Finally and most importantly, the British Red Cross continues to be committed to supporting people in need across Fenland and is developing its local presence through volunteers from the local community.

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From our centre in March we provide a range of services across the area, including community-based first aid training; hand, arm and shoulder massage to help people cope with crisis, pain and stress; and a partnership with Fenland District Council where Red Cross volunteers will assist people affected in the event of an emergency at any time of the day or night.


Operations Director, British Red Cross in East Anglia