Firefighters to start driving ambulances as 999 services team up
More than 60 firefighters will start driving ambulances across Norfolk from Monday to help in the fight against coronavirus.
The firefighters responded to a call for help as the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) is stretched by staff sickness and demand from the pandemic.
Norfolk’s chief fire officer Stuart Ruff said the 62 staff were already blue light trained emergency drivers.
They will drive emergency ambulances alongside paramedics.
Two of Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service’s driving instructors have also been delivering NHS supplies, including ventilators and protective equipment for staff.
Talks between the ambulance and fire services began in Norfolk last week after a national agreement was reached with unions.
One Norfolk paramedic said this week that around a third of his colleagues were off sick or self-isolating, while at least on was being treated for coronavirus in hospital.
Firefighters will be able to deliver essential items, help ambulance staff and collect bodies, while still being called out to fires and road crashes.
Mr Ruff said: “We were asked to support EEAST and have been in discussions to find out what their needs are and how we can support them, without compromising our own emergency response on the frontline.
“I was pleased to see so many of our staff volunteer their services to our blue light colleagues. We have considered all the offers and at this stage we are able to release 62 of our on-call staff.”
Marcus Bailey, chief operating officer with EEAST, said: “We are very grateful to our blue light colleagues in the fire and rescue service for their kind offer and look forward to working closely with them to keep our patients, staff, volunteers and the wider public safe during this pandemic.
“Covid 19 represents an unprecedented challenge for all of us and we truly appreciate the fantastic support we have received from the fire service, the public, businesses and our other partners.”
Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk County Council, said: “I am very proud of the contribution our firefighters wanted to make.”
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