Paramedics: Cycle Response Unit
Kingston Cycle Response Unit is one of five Cycle Response Unit (CRU) hubs in London. The first CRU was created in Central London in 2000, and the second followed at Heathrow in 2003. The Kingston Hub was born in November 2010, with a initial team of two paramedics: Ben Thackwell and Richard Sandham. The Kingston CRU provides 100 hours of cover for the town each week. The high volume of calls the Unit fields, means it is often used as a model example for other areas considering creating their own cycling unit. The street scape of the town centre means cycling is often the quickest way for a paramedic to reach a call. One reason is that its many pedestrianised areas make vehicle access difficult. Kingston is also a major transport hub with a high flow of buses coming in and out of the town centre, particularly along Eden Street. These large vehicles can make it difficult for traditional ambulances to pass, especially if there is congestion.
The CRU paramedics carry everything an ambulance would to initiate life preserving treatment. Ben Thackwell recalls ‘we’ve saved lives, helped deliver babies...you name it!’. Another benefit is the fact CRU paramedics can quickly assess the situation and cancel ambulances if they are not needed, saving them for more serious calls. The Unit is now part of the fabric of the town and is represented at many community and outreach events across the Borough. It has been expanded and can now operate up to four bikes at any one time. Ben Thackwell – now the unit’s Governance Paramedic – explains that New Malden Ambulance Station regularly rotates the staff who cover the bikes as ‘a development opportunity and to breathe new ideas and energy into the team.’ Owing to the fact that New Malden is some distance away, paramedics take their breaks in the Everyday Church.