Because of the surge in Omicron cases, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is to continue until next April to work with ambulance crews from South Western Ambulance Service to assist during medical emergencies.
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.
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 many fire stations have staff that are trained to give basic life support to people until the arrival of an emergency ambulance.
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.”
Under the agreement, fire officers will continue to work alongside ambulance staff by driving vehicles and assisting clinicians to provide patient-focused care. He said the strategic partnership will continue to significantly benefit SWASFT’s response to Covid-19, to save lives and support overall care to patients throughout the South West during anticipated surges in demand.
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.
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.’’
Dorset & Wiltshire FRS chief fire officer Ben Ansell said: “Firefighters from right across our Service, and the wider South West, have been supporting the Ambulance Service since April 2020. I am extremely grateful to them all for their support.
“Many of our firefighters are highly trained emergency response drivers, accustomed to dealing with emergency situations and I know they want to help in any way they can during the pandemic.
“Agencies have been working closely together throughout the pandemic so far to help keep residents safe, and the collaboration between our fire and rescue service and the ambulance service helps to ensure our residents get medical care quickly, when they need it. Our firefighters are able to use their transferable skills to support the ambulance service and the wider community in a variety of challenging roles, and I am incredibly proud of the work they are doing.”
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