Hampshire firefighters attend more than 10,000 medical calls a year – more than any other fire service.
The co-responder partnership between Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) and South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has been running for more than 13 years and accounts for 40 percent of all co-responder calls across the UK.
The pioneering concept has since been rolled out by other fire and rescue services.
In the past three years HFRS has attended 31,806 medical calls. There are currently 19 co-responder vehicles operating from 22 on call fire stations.
All Hampshire firefighters have been upskilled in Immediate Emergency Care (IEC) to enable them to respond to medical incidents.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s SCAS Liaison Officer, station manager Dave Heybourne, said: “Our firefighter co-responders give up their spare time to help people in their communities; stabilising seriously ill or injured people until the ambulance service arrive.
“This is partnership-working at its very best. Our co-responders have saved many, many lives in conjunction with SCAS during the past 13 years.
“It has provided the foundations for other collaborative work aimed at making Hampshire safer. The special work our co-responders do help build even greater trust and mutual respect between our two organisations.”
The co-responder team at Hartley Wintney Fire Station, an on-call station in the north of Hampshire, has recently been awarded with the Royal British Legion Cup in recognition of services to the community.
Group Manager Nigel Cooper said: “With HFRS firefighters attending an increasing number of medical calls, supporting our ambulance colleagues helps to improve response times to medical incidents, builds capacity within SCAS, and ultimately helps make Hampshire a safer place.”
This is just one of the ground-breaking projects by the team which recently put Immediate Emergency Care (IEC) packs on its 86 frontline vehicles and provided staff with additional training.
The IEC pack contains a defibrillator, Entonox pain relief, oxygen, haemorrhage control equipment and monitoring devices. The IEC qualification is externally governed and recognised by the SCAS Clinical Review Group.
HFRS is the first fire and rescue service to have its training, equipment and clinical governance recognised by the NHS.
This recognition has enabled the HFRS IEC product to also be put on dedicated SCAS-operated co-responder vehicles – another first for the UK.
The service has also introduced individual medical bags, including a defibrillator, which have been placed in the cars of 70 officers – including the chief officer.
These replace traditional first aid kits and are for use in the community, on and off duty, although they are not currently mobilised to medical incidents.
Officers were given enhanced medical training to support the new kit bags and help make lives safer. The service now has 200 mobile defibrillators across the county.
In addition to these projects HFRS has been called to speak at conferences across the country, and nominated for a clutch of awards, for its pioneering preventative work.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority Chairman Councillor Chris Carter said: “The Authority instigated and supported this life-saving collaboration 13 years ago.
“It is this kind of innovation and pioneering work that helps keep the people of Hampshire safe while giving the public the best possible value for money.
“It is gratifying to see other services looking to us and taking our ideas and successes back to their drill yards.”