ANIMAL charity Blue Cross, which has a Bromsgrove centre, has been presented with the First Aid Award for Public Sector and Not-for-Profit at the St John Ambulance First Aid Awards.

The black-tie event at the Lancaster London Hotel was hosted by survival expert Ray Mears, who has himself used first aid many times. Blue Cross was up against six other organisations in the category but the judges commented that the charity stood out because of its community spirit.

Blue Cross was established in 1897 to look after abandoned or injured pets giving them a healthy life in a happy home. The charity has 76 first aiders covering 462 employees at its 12 centres and four animal hospitals, which include a cat rehoming centre at Solihull College, a dog and cat rehoming centre with welfare clinic in Bromsgrove, and a horse rehoming centre in Rolleston-on-Dove.

Blue Cross take a multi-faceted approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of the staff, in which first aid and safety play a prominent part.

Staff at the charity’s head office in Burford, Oxfordshire are Community First Responders (CFRs) for the local ambulance service. CFRs are volunteers trained to attend 999 calls in their local area and provide emergency medical care until an ambulance arrives.

A host of celebrities attended, presenting many of the awards, including Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne and journalist Matthew Wright.

The judges said: "Blue Cross stood out - in part - because of its community spirit, encouraging first aiders to operate as community first responders whilst at work. It has an extensive range of first aid equipment and has also purchased specialist equipment for employees with specific medical conditions."

Mark Aspell, Blue Cross account manager, community first responder and first aider, said: “The safety, health and wellbeing of our Blue Cross teams, volunteers and visitors are incredibly important to us. Over a fifth of our employees are already trained first aiders and we aim to expand our network of community first responders to increase the support we can offer communities in areas where we have Blue Cross sites. To be recognised for all of our hard work in keeping first aid and safety high on our agenda is wonderful.”