The scheme is part of the ongoing work of Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s collaboration with South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb). Firefighters will respond to life-threatening emergencies such as cardiac arrests, chest pains and breathing difficulties. As with the existing community first responder scheme, they will always be backed up, and qualified ambulance crews will be assigned at the same time as the firefighters who will respond in fire engines or in fire service cars.
The first stage of the co-responding scheme involves crews from Sittingbourne, Larkfield, Sevenoaks, Herne Bay, Sheppey, Margate and Tunbridge Wells. From April 2016 it is expected that the scheme will roll out with all wholetime crews across the county.
Firefighters involved in the pilot have all undertaken the immediate emergency care responder training. Developed by SECAmb, the training will enable firefighters to provide treatment to patients in the moments before ambulance crews arrive.
In Kent, the scheme builds on the existing co-responding work that Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) has been doing on behalf of SECAmb since November 2004. This has involved seven on-call stations (Hoo, Wye, Marden, Dymchurch, Paddock Wood, Eastchurch and Edenbridge). During that time fire crews have attended more than 8200 medical incidents on behalf of the ambulance service. In addition to this new scheme, KFRS has put defibrillators on all KFRS blue light vehicles including fire appliances and officer response cars. All staff using those vehicles have been trained in their use.
SECAmb Paramedic and Immediate Emergency Care Responder (IECR) project lead, Matt England said, “This is all about saving more lives. When someone is in cardiac arrest, with every minute that passes their chances of survival diminish significantly. This great scheme will give us up to an extra 120 defibrillators out there in communities across Kent, which has to be a good thing. All the firefighters volunteered to be part of the scheme and act as an additional response to our crews.
“We’ll always assign an ambulance response to the call at the same time but if the firefighters reach the scene of an emergency before ambulance crews, they will be able to begin vital life-saving treatment.”
David Escudier, KFRS Operational and Development Manager, said, “We have been responding to medical emergencies on behalf of SECAmb in some areas since 2004 and have had a lot of public support for this work. We are therefore delighted to be able to work with SECAmb to extend this potentially life-saving work. It makes sense that if an equipped and trained firefighter can get to a medical emergency first, or is already on the scene of an incident, that they provide appropriate medical assistance while an ambulance is on its way. We hope that this pilot will prove a success and we can roll it out to other wholetime stations next year.”
The Kent scheme is part of the ongoing work of the emergency services collaboration across SECAmb’s region.
In Surrey, a similar scheme started on 28 September. Initially the pilot, which also runs until April 2016, will operate in Leatherhead, Reigate, Farnham, Horley, Chobham, Redhill, Cranleigh and Caterham before being rolled-out to others areas.
Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Associate for Community Safety Services, said, “Firefighters are dedicated to saving lives in whichever way they can and already carry equipment such as defibrillators to give the best possible care at the scene of fire and rescue emergencies. By going a step further and providing urgent care at a medical emergency when they can be on the scene before an ambulance they are aiming to save even more lives.
“Fire and rescue emergencies will always come first but when there are crews and vehicles available firefighters who are part of this pilot scheme will be able to start giving medical help to patients in life-threatening situations while an ambulance is on its way. It’s another example of emergency services in Surrey working closely together to better serve their communities.”