A&E crisis: Fire service putting public at risk by sending untrained firefighters to medical emergencies

A&E crisis: Fire service putting public at risk by sending untrained firefighters to medical emergencies
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue have been accused of putting the lives of the public at risk by underhandedly sending their firefighters to medical emergency incidents that should be responded to by paramedics, the Fire Brigades Union has said today.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue currently have only around a third of its firefighters who have completed an Initial Emergency Care Course. This is a 4-day course that enables firefighters to provide only initial first aid. The majority of the remaining firefighters have not had this training.

Firefighters are being mobilised to calls to assist the ambulance service as they have done for many years, usually to gain entry, however several recent incidents show that ambulances are either not arriving or having severely delayed responses.

Examples include:

  • Firefighters responding to a request to gain entry from a concerned family member who was unable to contact their elderly relative. When firefighters got into the property they found a lady collapsed and had stopped breathing. An ambulance eventually arrived 45 minutes later where paramedics informed firefighters they were mobilised to the incident but were stood down whilst en route as firefighters would be responded too.
  • Firefighters were left unable to respond to fire calls for two hours after attending a property where a lady had fallen and hit her head. No ambulance was available and firefighters stayed with her for two hours until they were forced to leave to respond to other incidents, leaving the lady on her own.

Ian Murray, vice-president of the FBU, said: “Firefighters routinely train to deal with fires, flooding, terrorism and rescue emergencies but South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are mobilising fire crews to incidents they are not trained to deal with.

“We know only a small percentage of firefighters are trained to give basic first aid.

“It is irresponsible and dangerous to put untrained firefighters in the position of attending incidents to assist the ambulance service, with the knowledge that it is highly unlikely one will arrive for some considerable time and as such leaving the fire crews to deal with a medical emergency they are not trained to deal with.

“The coalition government is guilty of presiding over an A&E crisis where ambulance and paramedics are dangerously overstretched. The current situation cannot continue.”

Graham Wilkinson, chair of the FBU in South Yorkshire, said: “This is irresponsible plain and simple.

“Even the deputy chief fire officer of South Yorkshire John Roberts admits that we’re not the primary service for these sort of emergencies.”

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