A TEAM of York taxi drivers are taking on a lifesaving role in the community, in what is thought to be a UK first.

Teaming up with Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Fleetways Taxis have bought a set of six defibrillator units and trained ten members of staff in first aid, CPR, oxygen and the use of the electric paddles, which can restart the heart of someone suffering cardiac arrest. There will also be another set of defibrillators at the taxi office next to York Station. That means any incidents nearby can be attended by trained staff or Community First Responders who can carry out potentially life-saving treatment until paramedics arrive.

Paul Stevens, locality manager for the YAS Community Resilience Team, said: “We know that in many medical emergencies, the first few minutes are critical.

“If effective treatment can be performed within those first minutes, lives can be saved and disability reduced.

“Taxi drivers are situated in the city centre, work a wide range of hours and are mobile across a large area. This means they could be very well-placed to respond to an emergency situation and help us to save lives at any time, day or night.”

The scheme was launched after a passenger in another firm’s taxi suffered a heart attack near the Fleetways office last summer, and staff could only phone for an ambulance and keep him comfortable until paramedics arrived.

Stewart Arnott, finance director of Fleetways said: “Luckily the ambulance was on scene quickly and he made a full recovery, but we wanted to do more to help.

“It was only when Fleetways really needed a qualified first-aider on hand and we didn’t have one available, that we realised we could make a difference if we trained more staff and drivers in first aid.”

The firm paid about £6,500 for the kits, and the YAS contributed to training and installation of special communication devices, which would alert trained drivers if they were closest to an emergency until paramedics arrive.

Paul said: “They’re not a replacement for the ambulance service, but a support mechanism and every time we send a volunteer we send an ambulance too.”