Firefighters will race ambulances to life-threatening emergencies in new London initiative

Fire crews will now be sent to the scenes of some life-threatening medical emergencies following an initiative launched in four London boroughs today to increase cardiac arrest survival rates.

The four-month trial will see fire crews, who already carry defibrillators, respond alongside the ambulance service in Merton, Wandsworth, Lambeth and Newham.

If a 999 call to the London Ambulance Service’s control room meets a set criteria, both the fire and ambulance services will be dispatched to the incident simultaneously.

Gareth Bacon, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority chairman, said: “As the number of fires and fire deaths continue to decline across London I’m delighted that firefighters can find new ways to use their excellent training and remarkable skill to help save even more lives.

“When it comes to treating someone in cardiac arrest, if fire fighters are closest, it makes perfect sense that they should respond to improve the survival chances of those in need of rapid help.”

The criteria covers calls to patients whose condition is immediately life-threatening as a result of cardiac or respiratory arrest.

The initiative will see firefighters respond to around 28 emergencies a week, until a paramedic arrives on scene.

Chris Hartley-Sharpe, head of First Responders at the Service said: “Our ambulance crews are facing unprecedented demand, treating over 1,500 critically ill patients every day and a further 2,000 patients with less serious illnesses and injuries.

“This initiative is a fantastic opportunity for the emergency services to work together and share resources and help save even more lives across London.

“London’s fire crews will respond to a small number of calls a week alongside our ambulance crews, which means that if they are in a closer proximity, they start basic life support until a skilled clinician arrives.”

Image courtesy of the London Fire Brigade, with thanks

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