Co-responding trial ‘saving lives’ in Newham

Newham is one of four boroughs taking part in a four-month co-responding trial

Newham is one of four boroughs taking part in a four-month co-responding trial - Credit: Archant

Firefighters have been swapping hoses for defibrillators as part of a trial that has seen them fill an additional life-saving role.

Newham is one of four London boroughs to adopt the co-responding trial, in which firefighters have been working alongside ambulance crews to deliver emergency care to patients suffering cardiac or respiratory arrests, since February.

Half way through the four-month scheme and fire crews in the borough have already attended 97 incidents with Stratford, East Ham and Plaistow pumps attending roughly 30 each.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) group manager Richard Binder says this merger of services is already widespread in the UK, but has yet to be implemented in the capital.

“We are the largest fire service in the country and we wanted our voices heard,” he said. “We know that it can make a significant difference to someone’s life.

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“We already have had feedback that they have made a difference.

“The patients have technically died – in that their hearts have stopped beating – so the sooner you get there the better. Sometimes you can make an intervention and have a positive impact.”

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The service – which uses equipment such as defibrillators that LFB already has – works by sending both ambulance crews and firefighters to the most critical incidents.

If firefighters get there first, they can pave the way for ambulance crews by carrying out CPR and setting up a life-support system for the patient.

“In Newham I know at least three incidents where our crews have resuscitated patients whose hearts had stopped beating,” explained Mr Binder.

“Our staff do the best they can alongside the ambulance crews.”

The trial – which is also being tested in Lambeth, Wandsworth and Merton – comes at a time when LFB faces a £11m cut in resources.

Just last month Stratford and Plaistow stations each lost a pump permanently after a controversial decision to lose out-of-use engines.

But Mr Binder said the trial, which comes at no extra cost to the brigade, is not about cutting funds.

“From our point of view it’s about saving lives, it’s nothing to do with efficiency.

“The more people you can get to the scene, the higher chance that person has of surviving.

Head of first responders for the London Ambulance Service (LAS) Chris Hartley-Sharpe has also welcomed the move.

“We are pleased to already see successes during this pilot in which firefighters carrying defibrillators respond alongside our service to treat a small number of our most critically ill patients.

“The more people able to respond to life-threatening situations such as a cardiac arrest and the quicker we can get a defibrillator and someone trained to use it to the scene, the more chance we have of saving even more lives.”

What do you think about the trial? Email with your views.

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