VOLUNTEER first responders are used to being first on the scene to help save lives but in the current pandemic they are also protecting their frontline colleagues.

Bury ambulance station has become a hub of activity as the packs of PPE are put together for paramedics throughout Greater Manchester to grab and go as they are called out to deal with emergencies.

And the dedicated volunteers are also helping raise spirits by driving a fleet of mobile tuck shops to A&E departments in the region, stocked with drinks and goodies donated by grateful members of the public for frontline NHS staff.

Before coronavirus struck trained volunteer first responders were often called out by the ambulance service if someone in their community required help fast. They stepped in until paramedics arrived.

And they were determined to continue playing a role when the pandemic arrived and they realised there was a huge task to help keep their paramedic colleagues safe.

Martin Stembridge, from Ramsbottom, who usually works as a photographer, now spends up to 50 hours a week packing essential PPE supplies

"We started doing it just for Bury, but it has now rolled out throughout Greater Manchester," said Martin.

"We are packing 800 to 1,000 bags a day. It's absolutely manic."

The bags are then delivered each morning to all the ambulance stations ready to be used.

In addition, the first responders are manning a fleet of five welfare buses, packed with sandwiches, chocolate, sweets and brew making facilities before travelling to A&E hospital departments.

"Staff, doctors and nurses and paramedics can come out if they want to and they can grab a brew or a bit of chocolate," said Martin.

"It's a little treat for them to keep their spirits up."

Martin says the first responders are determined to do as much as they can to help ease the stress for colleagues on the front line and have even been deep cleaning ambulances to give them a break.

"It's important. The thousands of hours the first responders have put in — if we weren't doing it they would have to pull paramedics off the front line because it has to be done," said Martin.

"The response we have had has been brilliant. Everyone is working as a team."

To deal with the demand from members of the public who want to help, Martin has set up a Justgiving page for people to make donations towards supplies for the welfare vans. It can be reached at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/help-our-heros