Following an article in the Times (August 1st 2016) which claimed thousands of patients are being put at risk by a shortage of paramedics, leading to firefighters dealing with serious injuries with limited training, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has responded.
Approximately a third of UK Fire and rescue Services work with ambulance services and are actively co-responding.
According to Pete O’Reilly, CFOA’s Lead for Health: “It is unfair to suggest firefighters are not trained to co-respond and are putting people’s lives at risk. The safety of the public and our firefighters is of paramount importance.
“Following discussions and consultations with the relevant ambulance trust, services which are co-responding will be trained to deal with particular emergencies. The attendance of appropriately trained firefighters is designed to complement the attendance of highly trained paramedics who are always mobilised to attend serious medical emergencies.”
The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) have a professional and productive relationship.
This has resulted in the signing of a Joint Consensus Statement, which outlines how – and when – both services will work together in a bid to save lives, protect people, while reducing the impact of devastating medical emergencies, including cardiac arrests.
According the MOU, demand for the Ambulance Service to respond to 999 calls has continued to rise steadily year-on-year; ambulance trusts in England received more than 9 million 999 calls in 2014-15 (an increase of more than 6% on the previous year), resulting in 6.47 million incidents.
A recent academic review commissioned by AACE identified an ageing population and an increase in the number of people living with long-term conditions; social deprivation and population density were among the key factors driving demand.
At the same time, the number of fires has decreased significantly, largely due to the success of preventative work by Fire and Rescue Services.
In 2014-15 Fire Services in England responded to 495,400 incidents; down by 6% compared to the previous year and a reduction of 42% compared to 10 years ago.
This has created new opportunities for the Fire and Rescue Service to support the health and social care sector in general and the Ambulance Service in particular.
The NHS Five Year Forward View highlights the need for an increased focus on integration and prevention, ensuring resources are utilised more effectively, outcomes are improved and demand is reduced.
Pete O’Reilly added: “As result of our joint working, we are working together at a national level to identify the best way forward across the UK. This will include ensuring effective responses, working to reduce demand and improving people’s quality of life. This could include effective use of information and data between the organisations and supporting new initiatives.
“However, fire services will always ensure there is essential fire cover in place, which will be done via risk mapping. In addition, if firefighters are asked to take on additional duties, training provision will be provided.
The health and well-being of our firefighters is incredibly important as it that of communities we are assisting. We are also confident that our collaborative work will help to reduce demand and improve the health of communities.”
- Fire and rescue services work closely with colleagues from other emergency services
- Steps are in place to ensure best practice is recognised, shared and replicated where possible
- Shared control centres (fire, police ambulance) already exist in many parts of the country, which has already provided significant efficiencies