Firefighters pull out of scheme to provide first aid

Back in October last year, Lowestoft South fire station started a pilot project working with East of

Back in October last year, Lowestoft South fire station started a pilot project working with East of England Ambulance service. Green watch firefighters Mel Buck, Tom Pennington and Andy Patching with paramedic Fraser Farthing. - Credit: Nick Butcher

An experimental scheme which saw some firefighters trained to provide life-saving first aid before ambulances could arrive at a casualty has ended after a pay deal could not be agreed.

The national scheme featured firefighters from a number of stations across the country – including five in Suffolk – being trained as first responders to be able to offer emergency help to people who had suffered a cardiac arrest.

The experiment started in October last year, and there have been more than 350 occasions in Suffolk when firefighters have been called out to administer first aid.

On many of those occasions they arrived before the ambulance service – and had been able to start working with casualties before paramedics arrived.

However national talks over a pay rise for firefighters broke down earlier this month and the Fire Brigades Union told the government its members would no longer take part in the experiment.

That meant the trial finished last week.

The five stations in Suffolk that took part were at Felixstowe, Sudbury, Long Melford, Lowestoft South and Haverhill.

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The Long Melford crew was called to a road accident and found a casualty who had suffered a cardiac arrest. They were able to get the heart beating before the ambulance crew arrived – and paramedics said they were very impressed by their work.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue's Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Dan Fearn said: 'Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, along with a number of other fire services across the country have been involved in a national trial of co-responding for some time.

'Unfortunately the FBU has now withdrawn from the trial due to an ongoing debate with the Government related to their pay and conditions.

'Whilst this is a disappointing end to the trial, the fire service and Suffolk County Council are keen to consider reintroducing co-responding as soon as possible once the national position changes.'

Suffolk FBU secretary Roy Humphreys said it was a national decision to pull out of the trial which happened because there was no agreement over terms for firefighters.

He said: 'It remains to be seen what will happen in the future over this issue.'

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