Jack Ansell and Steve Gooch, Co-responder Officers from South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), presented the response car to the crew at the fire station and within an hour of the handover, the on-duty co-responder was mobilised to a medical emergency in the new vehicle.
Co-responders play a vital role in the community as, due to their location, they can be on the scene in advance of an ambulance to begin potentially lifesaving treatment. A co-responding trial has been running in Hungerford since 22 June 2015 and involves retained (part-time) firefighters from Hungerford Fire Station assisting SCAS by providing a ‘first response’ to specific medical emergencies, including heart attacks and strokes. An ambulance or rapid response car is also mobilised to every co-responder incident.
Retained firefighters who are available to take on the co-responder role are sent to incidents by SCAS in a vehicle provided by the ambulance service. The original vehicle used by the firefighters when the scheme began in Hungerford was already some years old and coming towards the end of its life, so is now being replaced by a new model, which will be more reliable.
The co-responding trial in Hungerford has proved very successful to date, averaging 30 calls per month – although this has been as high as 43 in one month. All the firefighters who have volunteered to be co-responders have received additional medical training from SCAS.
Group Manager Neil Carter, who manages the co-responding scheme for Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS), said, “Providing a co-responding scheme in partnership with South Central Ambulance Service means that we can add even more value to the local community by helping to save more lives. As the firefighters only take part in co-responding when crewing permits, it has no impact on the provision of retained cover in Hungerford.
“Taking part in the trial has also had many additional benefits for RBFRS. For example, it has enabled the firefighters to gain a huge amount of additional medical experience, which in turn has been put to good use at fire and rescue service incidents, such as road traffic collisions and entrapments. In addition, at each co-responding incident, a comprehensive handover takes place on the scene between the co-responder and ambulance service staff. This has had the added benefit of developing even better working relationships between fire and ambulance service personnel, which has been evident at multi-agency incidents.”