Fire chief hopes lifesaving scheme where firefighters attend medical emergencies can be revived

Norfolks chief fire officer. PICTURE: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolks chief fire officer. PICTURE: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Norfolk's chief fire officer hopes a lifesaving scheme which sees firefighters respond to medical emergencies in the county can be revived.

A trial pilot project between the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) to treat the most critically ill patients ran for more than 12 months between July 2016 and September 2017.

It saw firefighters respond to 405 medical emergencies across the county, to help save lives when someone is unconscious and not breathing.

Firefighters from Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, King's Lynn, Norwich, North Walsham, Sheringham and Thetford were dispatched to cardiac arrest calls alongside ambulance staff and volunteers.

But the emergency medical response trials around the country were brought to an abrupt end because the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) raised concerns there had been no extra pay to recognise the extra responsibilities.

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But Norfolk's chief fire officer David Ashworth said he hoped an agreement could be reached to enable Norfolk firefighters to go to medical emergencies.

He told a meeting of Norfolk County Council's communities committee today: 'Our commitment to the trial was the largest in the east of England and produced some good results.

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'That is part of an ongoing discussion at a national level between the employers and the FBU around the broadening of the firefighters' role.

'But from a Norfolk perspective, I think that is something we should look to consider.

'There's an awful lot of good that could be done and o hope it can be resolved at the national level.

'If it isn't, then I think it's worth discussing with our health colleagues as well.'

When the trial was halted, Alan Jaye, chairman of the Norfolk FBU, said there was a possibility the 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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