Norfolk Fire crews respond to medical incidents

10 August 2022

Crews from two Norfolk Fire Stations are working with the East of England Ambulance Service to respond to some medical incidents in Norfolk.

The scheme, which is currently underway, sees Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) crews responding to adult cases of cardiac arrest within areas surrounding Sheringham and North Walsham Fire Stations.

The NFRS crew are co-responding to incidents along with the Ambulance Service: the trial aims to have officers from NFRS on scene as quickly as possible to support patients before the Ambulance arrives.

Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships, said:

“Every day our fire crews work alongside and support – and receive support from – the East of England Ambulance Service. This trial will take that cooperation in a new direction, with co-responding seeing our crews at Sheringham and North Walsham help save lives alongside our Ambulance Service partners. Rapid response is vital when it comes to cardiac arrest, and co-responding may save lives in that crucial, early period, and getting someone trained in line support to their side quickly can make all the difference.”

The scheme aims to give patients the best chance of survival while Ambulance Service staff are en route. Crews based at Sheringham and North Walsham Fire Stations, who have trauma training as part of their work as firefighters, have received additional training from the East of England Ambulance Service as part of the trial.

Paul Seaman, Head of Response with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“We’ve always worked closely with our blue light service partners in the Ambulance Service, and our Integrated Risk Management Plan laid out our intention to explore the possibility of co-responding. This new trial aims to see how we can help give patients the best chances: we know that being on the scene as quickly as possible is vital in responding to incidents of cardiac arrest, and it makes sense to see if using our teams based at local fire stations can make a difference.

“Nothing can replace a fully trained ambulance service crew in responding to a medical incident, but getting a Fire Service crew on scene to help in the time before the ambulance arrives may be the difference between life and death for some patients.”

Requests for emergency medical assistance will continue to be made via 999, with no change for members of the public. Where appropriate, the East of England Ambulance Service will request resources from NFRS to respond to incidents of adult cardiac arrest within the trial areas.

Tom Barker, Community Response Manager for Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and West Essex who has been leading on this partnership working with Fire and Rescue services in the region, said:

“Early intervention in medical emergencies is crucial to help save lives and we are very pleased to be working with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service on this co-responding scheme, which follows successful trials with other fire and rescue services in the region.  

“This additional resource will support our dedicated community volunteers to respond to medical emergencies before our ambulance crews arrive on scene.”

All medical incidents requiring an emergency response will be attended by the Ambulance Service: the trial will see NFRS crew attend in addition to the Ambulance Service. NFRS crew involved in the trial will continue to carry out their regular duties with the Fire Service.

The initial period of the trial runs to the autumn and is supported by the East of England Ambulance Service.

NFRS’ involvement is part of a wider regional collaborative project between the East of England Ambulance Service, involving the Fire and Rescue Services from across the region.

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