Fire services to continue vital role in supporting ambulance crews to save lives
Firefighters from across the five south west fire and rescue services are to continue to provide vital life-saving support alongside the ambulance service.
Since the early stages of the pandemic, firefighters have been working with ambulance crews from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) to assist during medical emergencies.
The partnership has led to countless lives being saved and received praise from government and royalty.
The shared crews have so far attended in excess of 30,000 calls, more than half of which are within the highest two priority calls, which are to people in life threatening or serious conditions.
With the current winter pressures on the NHS and surge in Omicron cases, this arrangement has been extended and will now continue until April 2022. Under the agreement, fire officers will continue to work alongside ambulance staff by driving vehicles and assisting clinicians to provide patient-focused care.
Since November 2020, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service have attended 3,513 calls working alongside SWASFT, fulfilled 1,091 shifts, and 46 firefighters have been trained to support the ambulance service.
Strong partnerships between fire and ambulance services aren’t new. Fire crews are often called upon to gain entry to houses so that paramedics can see to patients and some fire stations have staff who are trained to give basic life support to people until the arrival of an emergency ambulance.
Mark Preece, Chief Fire Officer for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I am incredibly proud of the contribution the firefighters in Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue have made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The intervention of SWASFT/FRS personnel has proven to save many lives and continues to do so.
“Since the initial request for assistance in April 2020 the Service has been prepared to provide support to our colleagues within SWASFT professionally and with sustained commitment, ensuring communities, families and individuals living in Gloucestershire receive the emergency support they need in times of crisis.
“Logistically the Service has adapted to ensure our emergency response is not effected and our firefighters have welcomed and valued the opportunity of joint working to resource operations.
“During a time of great challenge we as a Service have and will continue to build on the strong partnerships and regional approach to provide vital services.
“Our commitment will be extended until Easter 2022, and again I would like to thank the firefighters for their valuable contribution during the pandemic and to the rest of the Service who continue to offer and provide invaluable support during this intervention work.”
Cllr David Norman, Cabinet member with responsibility for the fire and rescue service at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “It has been an outstanding effort from our fire fighters to support the ambulance service during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our support will continue throughout the Winter and Spring into April next year. This will help ensure our communities continue to get the level of emergency support they need during the pandemic.
“As the New Year approaches, I would like to issue my thanks to all the emergency services working across the county for their hard work in 2021.”
SWASFT was the only ambulance trust in England to approve and train fire personnel to drive on blue lights for the first phase of the partnership. Typical tasks include driving urgent care vehicles, administering immediate aid, the safe movement of patients and supporting SWASFT crews in ensuring patients receive the care they need at home or on the way to hospital.
Will Warrender, Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service, said: “We are delighted that Chief Fire Officers have agreed an extension to the very successful collaboration involving the fire service working alongside SWASFT staff on ambulances, providing driving and support skills. This helps us ensure the most effective care possible to communities right across the south west to boost our Covid-19 emergency response this winter.
“This partnership is even more vital as another wave of coronavirus affects the country and our service continues to experience increased demand alongside winter pressure placing significant pressures on our resources.
“In order to continue with effective and responsive patient care, we have been working with various partners and agencies, to manage this challenge and are extremely grateful for the invaluable support we have received during the pandemic, from the region’s five fire and rescue services.’’
Paul Kimberley, Specialist Paramedic (Emergency and Urgent Care), said: “Ambulance crews and firefighters are already used to working together when responding to incidents. But what we have seen in the past year has required a new approach to working with our blue light responding partners. This has further enhanced the professional ties, mutual respect and understanding for each other’s work.
“Although we are different services, we have one aim and that is to keep the public as safe as possible. The impact of the pandemic has made it even more important that we support each other and stand together in the service of our communities at a time of great need.
“During this national health emergency we are more grateful than ever for the support of our fire services colleagues for offering to step in and assist our staff and our patients.’’