Recent figures from the Home Office show that Firefighters are being increasingly deployed to Medical Emergencies instead of Paramedics.
A Fire Crew was sent to 44,121 ambulance calls in the 12 months to June 2017, compared to 10,329 in June 2010. With Fire Crews now deployed to an average of 120 medical emergencies a day, many people are beginning to question whether this is the right way of dealing with an increased pressure on the NHS.
It is suggested that an ageing population and difficulties in making a GP appointment has caused a large increase in medical calls over the last ten years. The ‘co-responding’ practice which sees Fire Crews so routinely sent out to ambulance calls poses some hazards.
Firefighters who respond are usually not as competent, either in experience or training as their medical counterparts – they also generally do not carry the same level of medical equipment either. Although the Emergency Services has said that is prioritises call outs and sends medical professionals to the most severe cases where possible; this does pose a potential for a Firefighter to arrive at a medical emergency in which they are simply not equipped to assist effectively.
Lib Dem health spokesman Judith Jolly said: “Turning our firefighters into paramedics is a dangerous and slippery slope. Fire services have an important role to play responding to some medical emergencies, but shouldn’t be relied upon as a matter of routine.”
The second problem to consider is whether our response time for fire emergencies is being compromised by the approach, at the moment it would seem not, due to increased fire safety awareness and technology fire call outs are decreasing and manageable- but this is something to keep a close eye on.
Dave Green, national officer for the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Words fail me as to the way this country deals with emergency medical response.”
It is clear that the countries resources are stretched in all directions and the conversation must continue on the best way to manage our emergency resources in order to learn lessons and keep the country as safe as possible.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Collaboration across our emergency services presents a real opportunity to maximise resources, enhance local resilience and improve the service.”