Newham set for ‘co-response’ pilot

Fire and ambulance crews will "co-respond" to emergency calls

Fire and ambulance crews will "co-respond" to emergency calls - Credit: Archant

Firefighters are to join forces with ambulance crews to get to life-threatening incidents as quickly as possible under new proposals.

From next week, Newham will be one of four London boroughs taking part in a four-month co-responding trial with fire crews attending some life-threatening incidents – including cardiac and respiratory arrests – alongside medical crews.

Though co-responding is widespread across many parts of the UK, this is the first time emergency services have merged in London.

“We’d be mobilised alongside the ambulance services,” explained Paul Embery, London regional secretary for the Fire Brigade Union (FBU).

“If we’re able to reach the incident before the ambulance we have special equipment such as defibrillators and First Aid.”

The move comes at a fraught time for emergency services, as firefighters await a decision on how £11m is to be cut from the London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) budget.

But Mr Embery said the union would remain open-minded.

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“We are willing to engage in the pilot, though we are going to monitor it very carefully,” he said.

“If it’s successful, then it’s possible that it could be rolled out across London.”

Mr Embery said the London Ambulance Service will take calls from the public as usual, before contacting the brigade’s control operators. Only if there are enough brigade resources available would fire crews be sent out to incidents.

But he added they would be “completely opposed” to a full merger, as was put forward by Home Office minister Mike Penning last month,

A Stratford firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said he was happy to see how the pilot went but had concerns.

“We are happy to do it because if we can get there within five minutes as opposed to eight minutes, those three minutes can help,” he said. “My concern is that Newham is already two engines down. We think it should be a reason to keep our machines – let us trial it but give us back our machines.

A spokesman for LFB added: “The trial will take place from mid February and will cover calls to patients whose condition is immediately life threatening as a result of cardiac or respiratory arrest.”

The pilot is set to start next week in Newham, Lambeth, Merton and Wandsworth.

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