Demand on the Ambulance Service has increased by nearly 20 per cent since 2007. During the past ten years, firefighters nationally have been attending fewer fires, thanks to their successful programmes of community safety work. At the same time the variety and complexity of rescue incidents firefighters respond to has broadened along with the specialist skills needed to meet these challenges. These changes in activities have resulted in demand for FRS services remaining extremely high.
The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) is not funded to provide response to medical emergencies, however it is already carried out in some FRSs by employees on a voluntary basis. 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.
NEAS Director, Caroline Thurlbeck said: “NEAS receives a new 999 call every 65 seconds, and in an emergency, seconds count.
“During this innovative trial, an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) will be dispatched at the same time as an ambulance. Our ambition for this trial is to improve the survival rate for those people who suffer from a life-threatening illness or injury in the community. The location of EMR’s within local communities could mean they are nearer to the scene and can deliver lifesaving care in those first critical minutes of the emergency until an ambulance clinician arrives, enhancing the usual emergency medical response from NEAS.”
Latest figures show the return of spontaneous circulation to a quarter of all cardiac arrests attended by NEAS in the region, with just over three percent of patients surviving to be discharged from hospital.
During the trial, Emergency Medical Response Units, in the form of fire appliances, will deliver emergency medical services when requested by NEAS. 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.
Emergency Medical Responders have been trained to enhance their existing medical care knowledge, including basic life support by managing a patient’s airway, giving oxygen therapy, including assisted ventilation, delivering cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation using a semi-automatic AED and controlling blood loss.
The EMR’s are equipped with a kit which includes oxygen and an automated external defibrillator (AED) to help patients in a medical emergency such as a heart attack, collapse or breathing difficulties.
Chief Fire Officer Ian Hayton from Cleveland Fire Brigade said: “The scheme involves trained firefighters attending incidents in areas where we can reach a casualty and maintain life or reducing suffering and anxiety until a paramedic arrives. This really is a lifesaving partnership; Cleveland Fire Brigade staff can complement and work alongside the professional healthcare staff at North East Ambulance Service to improve patient care outcomes. Cleveland Fire Brigade’s ethos is to make a difference to the lives and safety of our local community. This critical partnership with NEAS allows our firefighters another opportunity to demonstrate how they can achieve that goal.”
The trial will run until 30 June 2016 and will be monitored on a daily basis by all parties to ensure it remains an effective scheme offering a level of quality patient care in the local community. Throughout the trial data will be gathered to allow for a full evaluation following its completion.
Caroline added: “At NEAS we are already supported by Community First Responder volunteers who work tremendously hard and do a fantastic job in their local areas. The addition of EMRs will further strengthen our response in these communities and the two models will work side-by-side to save more lives.”
The trial officially launches this month in Tyne and Wear (11th Jan), Northumberland (11th Jan), County Durham and Darlington (11th Jan). Cleveland Fire Brigade, which has been providing this service for a number of years is extending the service across the Teesside area throughout January.