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Firefighters’ union puts an end to scheme of co-responding to medical emergencies

PUBLISHED: 20:46 17 September 2017 | UPDATED: 07:23 18 September 2017

A partnership between firefighters and ambulance staff in Norfolk is coming to an end. Photo: Archant

A partnership between firefighters and ambulance staff in Norfolk is coming to an end. Photo: Archant

Archant

Firefighters from Norfolk stations will no longer respond to medical emergencies, raising fears lives could be put at risk.

From midnight tomorrow (Monday, September 18), Norfolk Fire and Rescue staff will end a trial which has seen them rush to the aid of hundreds of critically ill patients since July last year.

But the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has denied the decision not to continue the Emergency Medical Response (EMR) trial would endanger lives.

Alan Jaye, the FBU’s Norfolk chairman, said the move was due to Norfolk Fire and Rescue and other services failing to fund the trial sufficiently, and also because of an ongoing disagreement over firefighters’ pay.

Mr Jaye said: “The employers have had ample opportunity to look at funding and they have not come back with an appropriate response, hence why we are stopping the trial.

“So there also is a payment issue with firefighters, we would like to be paid appropriately for the work we do as well.

“It’s a national thing that’s happening right across the country.”

In the trial’s first 12 months, firefighters from Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, King’s Lynn, Norwich, North Walsham, Sheringham and Thetford were dispatched to 405 cardiac arrest calls and other medical emergencies alongside ambulance staff and volunteers.

But Mr Jaye denied people could die because of the trial’s end.

MORE: Firefighters respond to more than 400 medical emergencies in co-responding trial

He said: “When an ambulance gets a cardiac arrest call, they immediately put resources on that and they cannot be diverted.

“So they will still get the quickest response possible.

“The trial was always about assisting the ambulance service, even if in some cases we may have got there first.”

But the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) said it was “very disappointed” the trail was coming to an end, and said it had saved 63 lives across the country.

It said in a statement: “We do not believe ceasing participation in Emergency Medical Response in any way advances the arguments of the FBU over pay.

“The NFCC strongly urges the FBU to reconsider this decision. The trial also reaffirmed the trust and confidence the public has in the fire service and the wider work they do.”

Mr Jaye said the EMR scheme could be revived in the future.

He said: “If the employers come back to us with a responsible assurance over funding then it may start again.”

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