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Firefighters being trained to drive ambulances


Two new ambulances that will be staffed by Gloucestershire firefighters to help relieve pressure on paramedics during the Covid-19 pandemic have arrived in the county.


Firefighters from Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) were being trained by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) to drive and crew the ambulances yesterday and today (21 and 22 April).

It is part of a regional initiative that will see 15 new ambulances introduced to the SWASFT region, two of which will be operating in Gloucestershire.

The ambulances will be crewed by one firefighter and one paramedic and will respond to a range of incidents. They will also be available to assist in the transfer of patients to Nightingale hospitals, as they are opened over the coming weeks.

The training is being undertaken in collaboration with neighbouring Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) at Gloucester South Fire Station to ensure resources are used as efficiently as possible.

Once the training has taken place, the firefighters will begin operational duty at the end of this week. GFRS will be supplying four firefighters every 24 hours for an initial period of up to six weeks.

GFRS also continues to support SWASFT through its existing co-responder arrangements, in which firefighters respond directly to medical incidents from fire stations within their communities to ensure help arrives as quickly as possible when needed.

Other duties being carried out by GFRS include:

  • Assisting with the storage and delivery of PPE to care settings across the county
  • Delivering food and medicine to the most vulnerable
  • Helping to manage a temporary chapel of rest during the pandemic
  • A Covid-19 swabbing and testing facility has been set up at a fire station

Robust arrangements are in place to make sure that regular GFRS duties are not affected by the extra support being offered through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adam Openshaw, head of community safety at GFRS, and Cllr Dave Norman, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member with responsibility for the fire and rescue service, said in a joint statement: “We appreciate how stretched the ambulance service is at the moment dealing with Covid-19 so we are pleased to help relieve some of the pressure on paramedics.

“This partnership is a good example of emergency services working closely together to help protect the communities we are proud to serve. Our committed teams of firefighters will be making sure the public are kept safe and that residents get medical care quickly when it is needed.”

Simon Shilton, assistant chief fire officer for AF&RS, said: “As a Service, we are here to ensure our communities are safe. We know that our paramedic colleagues do a fantastic job but are stretched at this unprecedented time. We could not be more willing, and able, to help out in any way we can during these extremely challenging times.”

Derek McCullough, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) Interoperable Capabilities Officer, added: “We are delighted about this partnership with fire service colleagues across the South West to support our frontline care of patients. The partnership will enable us to make more efficient use of our resources, and help us deal with the expected increase in demand over the upcoming weeks. This will mean we are better equipped to reach those most patients in need of our care, and ultimately to save more lives.”

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