TEN years ago middle school teacher Robert Young was driving home to Worcester from his work in Redditch when he was involved in an accident that nearly claimed his life.

His car collided with a large four-wheel-drive vehicle near Droitwich leaving him unconscious and with life-threatening injuries.

One of the first people on the scene was Dr Malcolm Russell, a volunteer with Mercia Accident Rescue Service (MARS), who had been called by ambulance staff to help with this complex case.

As the closest immediate care doctor to the location, Dr Russell found Mr Young with critical injuries including a severe head injury, a hole in his chest, a punctured lung and a broken pelvis.

Dr Russell took steps to assist his breathing, as a low oxygen state could have caused brain damage, before he was flown by helicopter to Selly Oak Hospital for further treatment.

Mr Young, then aged 28, was placed in an induced coma for several weeks and eventually made a full physical recovery. Although the head injury has resulted in some lasting effects.

However Mr Young is convinced he would not be alive today if it had not been for Dr Russell’s prompt actions. The pair met again at a Surviving Adventure course run by Prometheus Medical two years after the accident.

Mr Young said: “Without the existence of MARS and expertise of Dr Malcolm Russell I would not be alive today, and still wake up each morning feeling incredibly grateful. I still speak with the charity on a regular basis to express my gratitude and both my family and I do all we can to support it in its fundraising efforts.”

Andrew Thurgood, clinical director of MARS, added: “MARS offers support to the ambulance service and occasionally the air ambulance with ground-based advanced pre-hospital care and can often be the first advanced asset to arrive at a seriously injured or ill patient.”

“All MARS immediate care practitioners use their own vehicles to get to the scenes of these medical emergencies and, over the many years I have worked with the charity, I have seen some amazing acts of kindness and pure commitment to supporting the community. All the more remarkable as these clinicians are already extremely busy with their day jobs.”

He added: “Funding is vital to enable us to purchase the equipment and maintain our training for the work that we do. As an example, for us to commission a new MARS volunteer immediate care practitioner it costs around £20,000 - therefore all support is extremely important for our service moving forwards.”

MARS was set up in 1983 and started in the Wyre Forest as one of the earliest voluntary immediate care schemes for doctors. It aimed to relieve pressure on paramedics dealing with complex patient management.

As the paramedics’ skills and scope has expanded, the need for doctors remains but with a greater focus on extremely sick patients.

Mr Thurgood, a consultant nurse, said: “In 2002 it amalgamated with the North Worcestershire Scheme and in 2005 that scheme renamed itself Mercia Accident Rescue Service to reflect its membership across Her3efordshore and Worcestershire.”

“An aspect of the new configured scheme, rarely seen anywhere else in UK, was the inclusion of two advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) working operationally and clinically at the same level as their medical colleagues in MARS. This was an exciting development.

“Between busy shifts in the NHS, MARS doctors/ACPs, volunteer to offer to help the emergency services when called upon in their spare time. Typically, across the scheme, there will be one or two doctors available to respond for calls for assistance from the ambulance service.”

The MARS volunteers become involved when ambulance staff receive a call about a serious case. The ambulance controller puts out a request via text messaging or a direct call to the MARS volunteer asking for a senior clinical support for the case.

“On seeing the request, and if the MARS doctor/ACPs is able, they will then contact the ambulance service by radio and be assigned to the case,” said Mr Thurgood.

Last week one MARS volunteer was given two serious cases back to back – he left home for the first case at 6.30pm and returned after the second case at midnight.

• MARS is a registered charity and funded by donations used for the continued training and development of its members, together with the supply of medical and protective equipment.

• MARS has a dedicated team of 11 doctors, two advanced nurse practitioners and five trainees. They cover the whole of Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

• MARS is supported by the West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Arden, Herefordshire and Worcestershire Commissioning Group for some of its consumables, such as drugs and equipment.

• All responders hold the Diploma in Immediate Medical Care awarded by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and many hold the Fellowship in Immediate Medical Care.

• For more information visit http://www.marsbasics.org.uk/