THOUSANDS of 999 calls following a heart attack, collapse or breathing difficulties will be answered in future by specially-trained firefighters.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service has teamed up with Humberside Fire and Rescue Service in what is the first initiative of its kind in the region, and is aiming for “world class” levels of survival from cardiac arrest.
The “emergency first responders” won’t replace ambulances, but if they are first on the scene they will be able to deliver life-saving care until a paramedic arrives.
So far 70 firefighters have been trained in resuscitation techniques and how to use a defibrillator and oxygen in an emergency situation.
The system has gone live at stations at Howden, Market Weighton and Pocklington, with a limited response available from Goole, Driffield, Brough, Snaith, Withernsea, Hornsea and Patrington, which will expand as more people are trained.
The initiative is already helping improve response times, which have been a cause of concern in rural areas like mid-Holderness.
Niall McKiniry, district commander for fire and rescue in the East Riding, said on more than 80 per cent of occasions they were meeting the eight-minute standard for the most serious emergencies, which was above the 75 per cent national standard.
He said: “It’s a well developed concept both in mainland Europe and North America; we see it as a way forward and a bit of a precursor for a more joined up way of blue light services working together.”
The YAS has been targeting the four worst performing Clinical Commissioning Group areas in the region for emergency ambulance response times, including the East Riding.
Chief executive David Whiting said: “In terms of the East Riding it has the potential to give us a small positive performance impact but the critical thing is being able to consistently get the co-responder and the defibrillator to the patient as quickly as possible.
“The faster you can get it there the better the outcome from a cardiac arrest.”
They are also working to increase the number of public access defibrillators. Mr Whiting said the volunteers were able to give an immediate response as they had the car with them when it was their turn to be on call, rather than having to wait as they did in other parts of the country for the crew to gather, wasting vital time.