A six-month trial scheme that has seen North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and the four regional Fire and Rescue Services work together to save more lives, has been extended.
In January, fire services in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Darlington and Cleveland joined forces with NEAS to respond to patients with emergency life threatening symptoms.
During the six month Emergency Medical Response trial, fire crews have attended a total of 2,904 patients across the patch as a result of 999 calls, of which 136 were in Northumberland, 395 were in Tyne and Wear, 1,811 were in Durham and Darlington and 562 were in Cleveland.
The trial has been so successful it will continue up to February 2017, with an additional roll out in Cleveland to fire stations in Hartlepool, Thornaby and Stockton.
NEAS operations manager Gareth Campbell said: “Demand on the Ambulance Service has increased by nearly 20 per cent since 2007 - we receive a new 999 call every 65 seconds. Over the last six months, fire crews have been able to reach the scene of many incidents and deliver lifesaving care in those first critical minutes until an ambulance clinician has arrived – improving the survival rates of our patients. We will continue to monitor the programme and work closely with the fire services because in an emergency, seconds count.”
As part of the scheme, Emergency Medical Response Units, in the form of fire appliances, deliver emergency medical services when requested by NEAS and are dispatched at the same time as an ambulance. The emergency medical services included may involve attending calls where people are suffering from chest pain, difficulty in breathing, cardiac arrest and unconsciousness not due to trauma.
Chief Fire Officer Ian Hayton from Cleveland Fire Brigade said: “We are very pleased with the trial so far in Redcar and east Cleveland which has improved the survival chances of patients. This extension will see the trial rolled out to three more stations in our area but we hope to eventually have all of our fire crews delivering this vital lifesaving work.”
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Chief Fire Officer Mark McCarty said: “This trial has provided a great opportunity for us to use our skills and training to further benefit the whole community. We know that every second is crucial in a medical emergency and our crews have responded on numerous occasions to assist our colleagues in NEAS. It is a positive step the pilot programme is now being extended for a further six months."
Keith Wanley, area manager for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The EMR trial has been a great success so far. To have achieved so many positive outcomes for patients in our region has been extremely satisfying for the crews involved and we are pleased that this life-saving work will continue in the coming months.”
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service crew manager, Paul Hodgson, added: “As a crew we joined the fire and rescue service to help people so we have welcomed this new element of our role. Firefighters have adapted to EMR very quickly and we are working well with the ambulance crews. It’s been very satisfying to have helped so many people in the first six months and we’re pleased that the trial has been extended so that we can continue this important work.”
Chris Lowther, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Saving lives has always been at the core of what we do and our crews are used to providing life-saving first aid at incidents. The trial has looked at how we can extend that work in partnership with NEAS, as a part of our clear purpose to create the safest community.”
The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) is not funded to provide response to medical emergencies, however it is keen to work more closely and collaboratively with the ambulance service. The trial is part of a review of the terms and conditions of firefighters by the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services, looking at the current and future demands on the service and profession.
Sixty-eight year old Linda Broxson of Seaham had just been dropped off at Deneside working men’s club for her weekly bingo night by partner John, when she collapsed unconscious and went into cardiac arrest. County Durham and Darlington FRS reached Linda first, followed by NEAS. She said, “I don’t remember everything that happened to me but I do know that they saved my life and I’m a very lucky person. I could never pay them back – they are worth their weight in gold!”
Pic caption: NEAS operations manager Gareth Campbell with Keith Wanley, Ian Hayton, Chris Lowther and Mark McCarty.