A new initiative in which firefighters will be sent to some medical emergencies alongside paramedics is being launched in Norfolk today.
The county’s fire service has teamed up with the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) to form the partnership, which officials say is the largest of its kind in the region.
Under the scheme, firefighters from stations in Gorleston, King’s Lynn, Norwich, North Walsham, Sheringham, Thetford and Yarmouth will be sent to incidents in which patients are not breathing and their hearts have stopped.
They are already trained in basic life support and are equipped with defibrillators.
Paul Seaman, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s project leader, said: “This is an exciting new area of work for the service and much time and planning has gone into providing a sound platform to start the co-responding pilot.
“This project has the real potential to save lives in the county by using existing staff and their skills to provide lifesaving interventions.
“We have worked closely with the EEAST for a number of years and this project will only serve to strengthen the bonds already achieved. We will measure the success of the pilot both locally and regionally so that a best practice model can be embedded for the future.”
The project is an extention of the Concern for Safety partnership, in which fire crews can assist paramedics in gaining access to properties where there is concern about the welfare of a patient.
EEAST’s quality development team officer, Carl Smith said: “Building on the collaborative work already undertaken through community first response (CFR), public access defibrillation and RAF co-response schemes, we also believe co-response schemes can add significantly to our ability to respond to patients quickly and start basic life support.
“We know that the quicker someone starts cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and gets a defibrillator to a patient in cardiac arrest the better chance they have of surviving.
“The ambulance service will continue to send clinicians to such patients as a top priority, but the best thing for the patient is to get someone trained in basic life support to their side as quickly as possible.”
Norfolk County Council’s communities committee chairman, Margaret Dewsbury, added: “This is an excellent example of effective partnership working.
“Building on the close relationship we already have with other emergency services helps to provide an improved way of working for the communities we serve.”