Fire engines carrying emergency medical responders will attend 999 calls as part of a six-month trial in a bid to support the under-pressure North East Ambulance Service.
Starting on Monday, it will see North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and the four fire and rescue services based in the region, including Northumberland, work together to save more lives.
Demand on the ambulance service has increased by nearly 20 per cent since 2007. During the past 10 years, firefighters nationally have been attending fewer fires, thanks to their successful programmes of community safety work.
At the same time, the variety and complexity of rescue incidents firefighters respond to has broadened along with the specialist skills needed to meet these challenges. These changes in activities have resulted in demand for fire and rescue services remaining extremely high.
NEAS director, Caroline Thurlbeck, said: “NEAS receives a new 999 call every 65 seconds, and in an emergency, seconds count.
“During this innovative trial, an emergency medical responder (EMR) will be dispatched at the same time as an ambulance. Our ambition for this trial is to improve the survival rate for those people who suffer from a life-threatening illness or injury in the community.
“The location of EMRs within local communities could mean they are nearer to the scene and can deliver life-saving care in those first critical minutes of the emergency until an ambulance clinician arrives, enhancing the usual emergency medical response from NEAS.”
During the trial, Emergency Medical Response Units, in the form of fire appliances, will deliver emergency medical services when requested by NEAS. The emergency medical services included may involve attending calls where people are suffering from chest pain, difficulty in breathing, cardiac arrest and unconsciousness not due to trauma.
Emergency medical responders have been trained to enhance their existing medical care knowledge, including basic life support by managing a patient’s airway, giving oxygen therapy, including assisted ventilation, delivering cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation using a semi-automatic AED and controlling blood loss.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Mark McCarty, said: “We are looking forward to working in partnership with the North East Ambulance Service to provide an enhanced level of response to emergency medical incidents.
“Our firefighters are used to dealing with medical emergencies as part of their role and already work closely with NEAS colleagues in a number of emergency situations.
“In this pilot, if one of our teams is available when a medical emergency response is requested, we can be at the scene quickly to begin life-saving treatment while waiting for an ambulance crew to arrive, who will then be able to continue the treatment and provide specialist medical care.
“This is a great opportunity for us to use our skills and training to further benefit the whole community.”
The trial will run until June 30 and will be monitored on a daily basis by all parties to ensure it remains an effective scheme offering a level of quality patient care in the local community. Throughout the trial, data will be gathered to allow for a full evaluation following its completion.