Firefighters deployed to help Norfolk hospitals

Scenes on the morning after a fire at the former Grampians chicken factory in Attleborough. Pictured

Paul Seaman, group manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Serice and lead of the services emergency Covid response and operations. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE - Credit: LAUREN DE BOISE

Fifty fire service staff are ready to be deployed as part of emergency response to help ease pressure on Norfolk hospitals.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has confirmed 15 firefighters are supporting the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, this week.

Firefighters will be helping to carry out Covid swab tests and fit personal protective masks for staff, for an initial seven day period.

Last week, Norfolk County Council, through the Norfolk Resilience Forum, was asked if it could provide what is known as mutual aid - making staff available to give the NHS assistance, for the next four weeks - in a signal of just how much pressure the county's hospitals are under.

Since receiving a request from the hospitals, the fire service has sent eight firefighters to JPUH and a further seven to QEH. All of the volunteers have been trained in fit and swab testing.

A further eight firefighters will receive resilience training next Monday to provide support at the James Paget, if the service needs to continue mutual aid for a number of weeks.

Paul Seaman, lead for emergency Covid response and operations, said 50 members of operational staff have volunteered to support NHS services and allow staff to be released to where they are "much needed".

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Mr Seaman, who has been in the fire service for 30 years, said: "We are very good at being able to redeploy in emergency situations and command that.

"I have been so impressed with how people have stepped up to the plate. We all understand our colleagues in the NHS are under extreme pressure this is the right time for us to help. We have to be measured and look at what we can and cannot do."

Not all volunteers have been used but the group manager said all of the fire services core services.

The group manager said: "I am so proud people have come forward. I hope this is a once in a lifetime event. This is the time we need to pull together as a community and come out the other side.

"One year ago, if you had told me firefighters would be helping to help with face fittings or swabbing, I would not have thought it.

"We have never faced a situation like this before. These jobs would not be routine for us at all. For a time period we are there to hopefully fill a gap and release some staff into the hospital. Once people are vaccinated and the rates being to drop and the hospital admissions drop we can find the right plan to extract ourselves."

In addition, the service is continuing to provide a cover of 40 firefighters as EEAST bank staff to cover ambulance driving. 

NFRS is in discussions with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital over what is needed.

Last week the hospital confirmed 30 military personnel were being made available and it is understood a request has been made for 200 Norfolk County Council staff to assist the NHS through mutual aid.

A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said:“Norfolk County Council and our partners have agreed the terms of mutual aid and will be discussing how we can deploy staff with the NHS.”