Northamptonshire firefighters will attend medical emergencies in bid to ease pressure on ambulance service under new pilot scheme

Firefighters are set to deliver life-saving medical care as part of a ‘first responder’ scheme set to run for six months in Northamptonshire.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service are set to launch the trial in the county on June 1.

EMAS says a number of firefighters have already been given extra medical training to act ‘first responders’ to heart attacks, collapse or breathing difficulties.

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The new scheme however, will see them travelling to the scene in a new ‘saloon car’ equipped with an oxygen tank and a defibrillator to help patients, which EMAS says will be quicker than an ambulance in some cases.

A spokesperson for EMAS said the move comes as demand on the ambulance service has increased by six percent year on year, yet “demand on the fire and rescue service is reducing”.

Head of community response at EMAS, Michael Barnett-Connolly, said: “During this innovative pilot scheme, an Emergency First Responder (EFR) will be dispatched at the same time as an ambulance.

“This will not replace the usual emergency medical response from EMAS however, as with our Community First Responders, their location within local communities could mean the EFR is nearer to the scene and can deliver lifesaving care in those first critical minutes of the emergency until an ambulance clinician arrives.”

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EMAS says the scheme aims to improve the survival rate of those who suffer from a life threatening illness.

Latest figures show last year only 21 percent of patients who suffered a cardiac arrest in the East Midlands arrived at hospital with a pulse.

EMAS has trained each ‘first responder’ to be able to provide “basic life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and oxygen therapy,” on top of their existing medical knowledge.

The scheme officially launches in Northamptonshire on June 1, with the trial operating in Daventry, Kettering, Rushden and Wellingborough.

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Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Martyn Emberson, said “During this pilot the on call firefighters will be available for a community response to a medical emergency.

“Being in the immediate vicinity of the emergency will mean we can arrive quickly to start life-saving treatment while our ambulance colleagues travel to the scene to provide the specialist medical care.”