Firefighters across the South West will continue to provide vital life-saving support alongside the ambulance service in the coming months.
Since the early stages of the pandemic, firefighters have been working with ambulance crews from South Western Ambulance Service to assist during medical emergencies.
Crews across the region 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, the arrangement has been extended and will now continue until April 2022.
Will Warrender, Chief Executive of South Western Ambulance Service (SWASFT), 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.’’
Under the agreement, fire officers will continue to work alongside ambulance staff by driving vehicles and assisting clinicians to provide care.
Since November 2020, Avon Fire and Rescue Service staff have completed over 1,700 shifts driving ambulances – over 1400 of those have been responding to category 1 calls which require an immediate response to a life-threatening condition such as cardiac arrest.
Mick Crennell, Chief Fire Officer of Avon Fire and Rescue Service said: “We are pleased to be in the position where we can continue supporting our SWASFT colleagues and ultimately making a difference to the people we serve.
“It’s really important that we continue to work together and support each other, where we can.
“I am incredibly proud of all those here within Avon Fire & Rescue Service, as well as members of the wider fire service family, who have stepped up and stepped forward to support our communities and our partners in their greatest time of need. It’s a real privilege to work alongside individuals dedicated to going above and beyond.”
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 ambulance crews in ensuring patients receive the care they need at home or on the way to hospital.