CALL an ambulance and a fire engine turns up!
Firefighters with just six days basic first aid training are being sent to medical emergencies instead of ambulances. This happened on over 44,000 occasions last year and included patients suffering from heart attacks and strokes.
Crews dealt with 44,121 call-outs last year that would normally have gone to paramedics – a rate of 120 a day and four times as many as in 2010. They have treated patients who have suffered cardiac arrests, strokes, fits and heavy bleeding.
Not only does this put the patient at risk, but if a fire breaks out while the firefighters have already been deployed for a medical emergency, it puts those trapped in the burning building at risk.
Forty-five brigades in England have adopted ‘co-responding’, whereby firefighters are routinely sent to ambulance calls. This could mean either a single firefighter in a car or a crew of four with an engine.
In Kent, records from the end of November show that fire crews were sent to between nine and 16 medical calls a day. Incidents included unconsciousness, breathing difficulties, back pain, fits, and cardiac arrests where the heart had stopped beating.
A whistleblower, who works for Kent Fire and Rescue, claimed firefighters did not have the qualifications or the training to treat the majority of patients. He said staff did six days of basic first aid – including how to use a defibrillator – with a three-day refresher course every three years.
He added: ‘It’s just so wrong. It’s putting people at risk of fires. If a pump is off the road, and there’s a house fire nearby, then there’s no one to attend it for far too long. We only have a certain amount of kit.
‘We have a first aid bag and it’s got tourniquets, oxygen, bandages to stop haemorrhaging and a defibrillator. But we have no drugs whatsoever. No adrenaline which is what they need.’
The Fire Brigades Union declared that crew members would no longer be obliged to respond to medical calls. By law, engines, or ‘pumps’, must be manned by at least four firefighters to be operational.