Firefighters to join paramedics at medical emergencies

Firefighters will be joining paramedics at certain medical emergencies as part of a new scheme being piloted across the county.

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service will be working in partnership with South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) to respond to immediately life-threatening Red 1 calls, the ambulance service has announced.

Around 40 firefighters, including 12 new wholetime recruits, have completed Immediate Emergency Care Responder courses developed by SECAmb.

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A spokesman for SEACAMB said: “The training enables firefighters, whose equipment includes a defibrillator, to provide treatment to patients in the moments before ambulance crews arrive much in the same way as SECAmb’s Community First Responders (CFRs).

“Ambulance clinicians are always assigned to attend a call at the same time but, if available, a co-responder may arrive first.”

The co-responding programme has followed similar schemes being carried out in Surrey and Kent and is expected to start later this autumn.

Matt England, SECAmb clinical quality manager and co-responding lead, said: “This collaboration is about ensuring our most seriously-ill patients are seen as quickly as possible.

“When someone is in cardiac arrest, with every minute that passes their chances of survival diminish significantly. We’ll always assign an ambulance response to the call at the same time but if firefighters reach the scene of an emergency before ambulance crews, they will be able to begin vital life-saving treatment.”

Lee Neale, acting executive director for communities and public protection and chief fire officer at WSFRS, said: “A huge amount of work has been carried out in preparation for this trial and we are very pleased to have a team of staff who are trained to the high standard the ambulance service require to be able to respond to some of their emergency calls.

“It goes without saying that, if a life is at risk, we want to do all that we can to help that person.

“We are very pleased to be working in partnership with the ambulance service and will continue to look at new ways of working to provide the best possible services to the communities where we live and work.”

The trial is part of SECAmb’s wider ongoing work of emergency service collaboration across its region.

Discussions are also under way for a similar scheme in East Sussex.

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