St John Ambulance volunteers saddle up for Cheltenham Festival

Horses at Royal Ascot

St John Ambulance volunteers in Gloucestershire are set to race into action this week as the county hosts one of the premier equestrian festivals of the year.

Around 35 of the charity’s volunteers have been on duty throughout the Cheltenham Festival from Tuesday  March to Friday  March. They include first aiders patrolling the course on foot and bicycle, radio controllers to direct volunteers to emergencies and doctors and nurses manning a medical centre.

55,000 visitors each day

One ambulance and 10 first aiders were on site on Monday as the finishing touches were put to the race meeting. The festival attracts around 55,000 people a day, with 65,000 expected on the final day. There are also 6,000 workers on site including jockeys and their racing teams.

For the four days of the festival, one ambulance crew have started the day early so they can be on hand at the gallops in case any riders are injured as horses are exercised from 7.30am to 9am.

From 9am to 8pm there will be four ambulances and crews, three foot patrol teams, two cycle response teams, two radio controllers, two doctors, two nurses, six first aiders, management and clerical staff on duty.

Injured jockeys

The numbers of people receiving treatment during each festival has ranged from 180 to more than 250 and first aiders and the medical centre treat anything from injured jockeys to visitors who are taken ill.

Andy Cumming, Operations Manager for St John Ambulance Gloucestershire, said: 'The Cheltenham Festival is also a high point in our calendar and is an event our volunteers all enjoy.

'The atmosphere is great and we are confident that we have a wide range of first aid facilities on the racecourse to ensure we can respond speedily to any emergency.

'During the five days we are on duty we treat anything and everything from chest pains to head injuries, headaches, cuts, bruises and burns to more serious cases like cardiac arrests. There is never a dull moment but that is what makes it interesting.'