West Sussex fire co-responding pilot set to begin

WSFRS’s Lee Neale and SECAmb’s Matt England.

WSFRS’s Lee Neale and SECAmb’s Matt England.

A potentially life-saving scheme in which West Sussex firefighters attend certain medical emergencies with South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) is to be piloted in the region.

The co-responding scheme follows similar work with the fire and rescue services in Surrey and Kent with discussions also under way in East Sussex.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS) has worked in partnership with SECAmb and will initially respond to immediately life-threatening Red 1 calls.

To date around 40 firefighters, including 12 new wholetime recruits, have successfully completed the Immediate Emergency Care Responder course developed by SECAmb. The trial is expected to commence later this autumn.

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

SECAmb Clinical Quality Manager and co-responding lead Matt England 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 & 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.”