A new “Firemedics” pilot scheme on trial in two Lancashire towns has been given the green light by emergency crews after its first week in operation.
Fire officer “first responders” have been out on 999 calls in both Morecambe and Ormskirk to treat casualties ahead of paramedics arriving.
And at the end of the first working week a spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The signs are good. While we haven’t had any really notable life or death cases, what call-outs we’ve had have been dealt with well. It’s early days yet, but so far so good.”
The scheme, where firefighters specially trained in treating casualties can be sent out in a fire engine to tackle a medical emergency if they are nearer than an ambulance, is being trialed in the two locations before a decision is made on whether to roll it out across the county.
Lancashire is one of the first places in the country to test the idea which both fire service and ambulance chiefs are enthusiastic about.
Derek Cartwright, North West Ambulance Service director of operations, said: “This is an extremely positive project. This is our opportunity to use the fantastic expertise the fire service has in dealing with emergencies and get help to patients as quickly as possible.
“Rural and semi-rural towns are a particular challenge for the ambulance service.
“If a patient suffers from a cardiac arrest for example, their chance of survival reduces by around 10 per cent for every minute treatment is delayed.”
Justin Johnston, Lancashire’s deputy chief fire officer, said: “It makes absolute sense for our firefighters to become Community First Responders.”
A spokesman for the brigade added: “These firefighters have had extra training to deal with Red One and Red Two emergency calls. They carry equipment like defib machines and oxygen.
“But I must stress they are not there to replace paramedics, they are just being sent out ahead of an ambulance if they can reach the patient first.
“The paramedics are still on their way to the incident, it’s just that our staff can do vital checks and start to treat the person as much as they are able until the paramedics arrive.
“One of the incidents we went to this week was a 90-year-old man with breathing difficulties. We were able to help out until the ambulance arrived.”
The pilot scheme will be assessed at the end of the six months and discussions will then take place about extending it across the county.