FIRE brigade union bosses have ‘tentatively welcomed’ plans to offer Hampshire firefighters better first-aid training.
The move comes amid concerns fire crews are facing mounting pressure to deal with medical incidents to support their under-pressure colleagues in the county’s ambulance service.
But Hampshire Fire and Rescue has stressed the latest wave of training is not about fire crews taking on the role of paramedics – it’s about providing vital first-response life-saving skills.
Now, Nigel McCullen, chairman of Hampshire Fire Brigades Union, has said the move is positive as long as it does not impact on crews’ abilities to tackle blazes.
Mr McCullen said: ‘We’re tentatively welcoming it.
‘It’s something that we could have scope to do within our day-to-day roles.
‘But this is not about going out to someone that’s fallen over in the street while we wait for paramedics to arrive.
‘We can’t be tied up for hours holding someone’s hand.
‘This is about us providing that immediate life-saving care to someone who has had a heart attack, for example.’
He added: ‘We can’t take on more of a medical role that would then eat into this core business. The public who are paying for us don’t deserve to have a second-rate service.’
The scheme, known as Immediate Emergency Care – or IEC – will see crews being given new packs of lifesaving equipment and training.
All front-line vehicles are being kitted out with defibrillators, Entonox (gas and air) and equipment to control major haemorrhaging.
Group manager Rob Cole, of the fire service, said this was a major step forward in helping to save more lives.
‘We are not paramedics but we are often the first on the scene at incidents requiring medical intervention.
‘A firefighter who has been medically trained to a high level and is armed with the right equipment can be the difference between life and death. We will deal with a casualty until the arrival of an ambulance at which point we would hand on the medical care to the paramedics as they have a greater level of clinical expertise,’ he said.
The fire service already operates a co-responders scheme with South Central Ambulance Service.
It sees them attending some 13,000 medical calls a year.
Earlier this year, unions criticised health bosses after a shortage of ambulances forced fire crews to transport injured people to Queen Alexandra Hospital in their fire engines.