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British Red Cross
The British Red Cross Society is the United Kingdom body of the worldwide neutral and impartial humanitarian network the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The society was formed in 1870, and is a registered charity with more than 32,500 volunteers and 3,500 staff. At the heart of their work is providing help to people in crisis, both in the UK and overseas. The Red Cross is committed to helping people without discrimination, regardless of their ethnic origin, nationality, political beliefs or religion.
The British Red Cross was formed in 1870, just seven years after the formation of the international movement in Switzerland. This followed the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), and a move across Europe to form similar societies. On 4 August 1870, after a public meeting, the 'British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War' was formed. It assisted in providing aid to both warring armies in the Franco-Prussian War and subsequent 19th-century conflicts, under the protection of the Red Cross Emblem. The society was one of several British volunteer medical organisations to serve in the war.
Following the start of the Great War in 1914, the British Red Cross joined forces with the Order of St. John Ambulance to form the Joint War committee and Joint War Organization. They pooled resources and formed Voluntary Aid Detachments (or VADs) with members trained in First Aid, Nursing, Cookery, Hygiene and Sanitation. These detachments all worked under the protection of the Red Cross, working in hospitals, rest stations, work parties and supply centres.
In 1919, after the cessation of hostilities, the League of the Red Cross (now the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies) was formed, and the role of national societies increased, with a shift of emphasis from wartime relief to focusing on "the improvement of health, the prevention of disease and mitigation of suffering throughout the world". The British Red Cross stayed involved with blood transfusion past the formation of the National Blood Service and it retained an ancillary role until 1987.
After the declaration of war in 1939, the British Red Cross once again joined with St. John to form the Joint War Organisation, again affording the St. John volunteers protection under the Red Cross emblem.
The Red Cross also famously arranged parcels for prisoners of war, following the provisions of the third Geneva convention in 1929, which laid out strict rules for the treatment of PoWs. The Joint War Organisation sent standard food parcels, invalid food parcels, medical supplies, educational books and recreational materials to prisoners of war worldwide. During the conflict, over 20 million standard food parcels were sent.
The immediate priorities for the British Red Cross following the war, were the huge number of displaced civilians caused by forced migration during the war. The Red Cross provided much relief for these people, including basic supplies, and helping to reunite people through the Messaging and Tracing Service. This work led to the provisions in the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to protect civilians caught up in war.
In the UK, the society has been active at many major disasters, from the coal tip slide at Aberfan in 1966, the Lockerbie air disaster in 1988 to the London bombings in 2005, providing support on all levels, from front line medical provision, to running helplines for worried relatives and long term emotional care for the victims.
The British Red Cross provides a wide range of services to assist the emergency services and statutory authorities, ranging from first aid support and distribution of aid during a crisis to managing a disaster appeal scheme and providing telephone support lines in its aftermath. Notably, all services of the British Red Cross can be utilised for the emergency response service, as the situation demands. For example, the therapeutic care service can provide support at a rest centre for survivors, while Ambulances can assist the NHS in caring for the injured.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest provider of first aid in the world. The British Red Cross is possibly most recognised in the UK for its work as a leading provider of first aid at public events across the UK. Thousands of volunteers give care to the injured at events of all sizes including Premiership football games, concerts and large-scale running events such as the Great North Run.
The British Red Cross is one of the leading providers of first aid training in the United Kingdom. It trains people both on a community and commercial basis. The commercial training teams run nationally recognised First aid courses specifically designed to provide skills for use at work. The British Red Cross have been running these courses for 25 years and over 120,000 people are trained each year. Courses range from a basic Emergency Life Support to a three-day First Aid at Work (FAW) course recognised by the Health and Safety Executive.
Formerly known as Fire Victim Support, this service is one of the more recent to be started by the British Red Cross. Covering most, but not yet all, of the UK, the British Red Cross provide assistance at the request of the local Fire and Rescue Service to those in the immediate aftermath of emergencies such as a house fire or road traffic accident. Typically a team of two volunteers with a customised vehicle will respond to victims and provide them with shelter, food, first aid, clothing, toiletries, washing facilities and moral support. Volunteers will assist with the process of dealing with local authority housing departments or insurance companies to enable rehousing.
British Red Cross provides the public alongside some Hospital trusts to borrow a wheelchair for free. This operates throughout United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. They nearly have 1,000 different offices that operate this service. This service is operated by the British Red Cross Health and Social Department.
The British Red Cross, in some areas, provides short-term care and support for people recently returned from hospital, or recently having suffered an injury which otherwise would result in a hospital or care facility admission. Volunteers enter peoples' homes and help them with the every day tasks which would otherwise be impossible or pose difficulty for them, such as shopping and getting prescriptions, helping them maintain their independence and dignity, while preparing them for living independently and offering companionship.