Ambulance volunteer sacked for SPEEDING on his way to help 999 patient

By Sofia Munez 0

  • First Responder Godfrey Smith was attending an urgent call in Oxford
  • Drove a high visibility ambulance Land Rover at 33mph in a 20 mph zone
  • Bosses at South Central Ambulance Service dismissed Mr Smith after someone made a complaint
  • Mr Smith, 64, from Faringdon has volunteered for 15 years
  • Petition now started in his support

By Lizzie Edmonds

PUBLISHED: 07:44 EST, 11 September 2013 | UPDATED: 09:27 EST, 11 September 2013

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A life-saving ambulance volunteer has been sacked because he drove TOO FAST to answer a 999 call to a patient who had collapsed and was unable to breathe.

First Responder Godfrey Smith was driving a high visibility ambulance Land Rover, but was told he was being dismissed because he drove a 33mph in a 20mph zone.

The stunned 64-year-old, who has been saving lives by being first on the scene of serious incidents for 15 years, said he was told he had lost his job because he had 'breached road traffic law.'

In shock: Volunteer Community First Responder Godfrey Smith had his services dispensed with by South Central Ambulance Service for driving 33mph in a 20mph zone

In shock: Volunteer Community First Responder Godfrey Smith had his services dispensed with by South Central Ambulance Service for driving 33mph in a 20mph zone

Saving lives: Mr Smith doesn't deny speeding down an Oxford shopping street but says he was responding to an urgent patient call

Saving lives: Mr Smith doesn't deny speeding down an Oxford shopping street but says he was responding to an urgent patient call

Bosses at South Central Ambulance Service dismissed Mr Smith after checking instruments in his liveried Land Rover and discovering he had travelled down a shopping street in the centre of Oxford at 13mph faster than he should have done.

The new 20mph speed restriction zones have been much-criticised by local drivers in Oxford who claim they cause traffic jams.

Mr Smith, who lives in Faringdon, was called by ambulance controllers to go from the Carfax centre in Oxford to the city’s St Clements area,  to give immediate treatment to a man who had collapsed with breathing problems.

He jumped in his marked SCAS Land Rover and, on his way, pulled up alongside an RAF responder car at the lights by Longwall Street to ask if they were also attending.

He said following the conversation he drove around a bollard to get ahead of the traffic, but that at no point was anybody at risk.

Mr Smith added: 'If I thought it was dangerous I wouldn’t have done it. There was no traffic coming the other way, the lights were on red.'

However, following a complaint about his conduct, it was discovered on Mr Smith’s satellite navigation system that he was travelling at 33mph in the 20mph zone.

He said today: 'I am gobsmacked, it feels like they have ripped my soul out.

'There was no thanks whatsoever for my 15 years of service.

Extenuating circumstances: Mr Smith received an urgent call and drove too quickly down High Street and Longwall Street, pictured, in Oxford. He also drove around a bollard to get ahead of traffic

Extenuating circumstances: Mr Smith received an urgent call and drove too quickly down High Street and Longwall Street, pictured, in Oxford. He also drove around a bollard to get ahead of traffic

'The phone hasn’t stopped ringing with messages of support. The ambulance service has broken my heart.

'I have shed tears over this. It meant everything.'

A spokesman for the ambulance trust said that responders did not have the same rights to break road laws as the driver’s of ambulances but it refused to comment on Mr Smith’s case specifically.

A letter to Mr Smith from the trust said: 'It is felt that your standard of driving on this occasion fell far below that required of someone driving a SCAS marked vehicle.'

In June the same ambulance service issued an urgent plea for volunteers after the number of drivers - who completed 19,800 trips in 2012 - dropped from 45 to 28.

A spokesman for SCAS said at the time that it would need 90 extra county ambulances to meet life-saving response times.

Mr Smith has been driving for 46 years and says he always obeys speed limits. He has attended more than 2,000 call-outs and saved numerous lives.

He added that the Sat-nav was still reporting the road was a 30mph zone and he was unaware he had broken the speed limit.

Support: At least 60 people have signed a petition supporting the sacked man since Monday

Support: At least 60 people have signed a petition supporting the sacked man since Monday

Mr Smith said: 'This is a brutal punishment.

'They should have made sure that the mapping in the sat nav we are given is up-to-date.'

Mr Smith - who also provides first aid training through Blewbury’s EMC Medical Services Ltd - estimated he had saved six lives in his role, which he said was the 'most rewarding thing you can do.'

He said today: 'I have to be at a call within eight minutes and at times that is a long time before any ambulance arrives.

'I can be using a defibrillator on a patient, bagging them and being there for their family as well.

'If there is even a slim chance of saving someone then I am there - at least they will have a chance.

'I get people coming up to me in the street saying ‘you saved my child’, you helped my mum.

'It is the most rewarding thing someone can do and a privilege to be able to help people.'

At least 60 people have signed a petition supporting the sacked man in three Faringdon supermarkets and The Bell Hotel since Monday.

Organiser and family friend Carolyn Williams, 68, said: 'It is a huge injustice. If it was one of us who had stopped breathing and a community responder was coming at 20mph, you wouldn’t appreciate it.

'It is a huge loss to Faringdon.'

Volunteer: Those supporting Godfrey Smith have said his dismissal will be a huge loss to South Central Ambulance Service

Volunteer: Those supporting Godfrey Smith have said his dismissal will be a huge loss to South Central Ambulance Service

Mr Smith’s son Matthew, 19, has now resigned as a responder in support of his father and handed his marked ambulance car back.

He said: 'I thought it was bad enough for my dad to see that every day and to know that he can’t use it, let alone me going to use it.'

Former patient David Hatton said his life was saved by Mr Smith in 2007 when he collapsed with a heart attack at his  Faringdon home.

Mr Hatton said Mr Smith’s use of a defibrillator and CPR kept him alive in the hour before he got to hospital.

He added: 'It is very petty. How can they get people to volunteer for the service and not give them the tools to do the job?'

Ambulances drivers employed by the trust have to get to 75 per cent of most serious calls in eight minutes and latest figures, for July, show it hit 84 per cent of its target in Oxfordshire.

The same trust hit the headlines last year after it was disclosed it one of its senior officers was a convicted murderer.

The trust had failed to check on the criminal past of operations manager Robert King before employing him.

Mr King retired after he was arrested for drink-driving before his previous conviction was revealed. The trust refused to justify its action in relation to Mr Smith.

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