Lincolnshire firefighters to take patients to hospital in trial scheme
Firefighters are to take patients to hospital in their own red ambulances as part of a new £500,000 pilot programme to be rolled out over the new few months.
Three fire stations are to spearhead the test which would see fire crews taking sick people to hospitals around the county in orthodox ambulances painted in fire-red livery.
The programme is being set-up in collaboration with the East Midlands Ambulance Services (EMAS) which is looking to make its emergency response times faster.
The funding for the new scheme has been provided by the Transformation Challenge Award. The Government set aside £9 million for those local authorities and fire and rescue operations looking to transform their services.
Fire crews would only take the patient to hospital on the advice of a paramedic who would also be present.
Nick Borrill, deputy chief fire officer, confirmed the plan would be put into action in the next few months at three stations, yet to be announced.
"The trial is purely about the conveyance. If you have an appropriate vehicle, would it not be better to convey the person to hospital to reduce response times and save lives?
"The crew would go with the ambulance to hospital. We are planning to test this in three fire stations initially.
"We are hoping to start it in the next two or three months. We are getting the ambulances through EMAS."
A total of £500,000 was awarded to the Lincs Fire and Rescue (LF&R) team to put the ambulance service into action.
Chief fire officer Dave Ramscar added: "We put a bid in before Christmas and we received £500,000 funding from the Transformation Challenge Award.
"A total of 42 per cent of our calls are medical emergencies. People will dial 999 and the call will go through to EMAS but if you have had a heart attack, and the nearest resource to you is a fire crew and an ambulance, surely that is better. You don't want to be waiting for an hour and half to go to hospital.
"Two fire crew will drive the ambulances. They will have all the same kit as an EMAS ambulance but our guys will drive them."
Concern over possible waiting times at hospitals was a key concern, meaning that fire crew staff could be tied up for hours while patients were checked in. But LF&R added that discussions were in hand with EMAS to see if there was scope to release the fire crews from any adverse waiting times.
Mr Borrill explained: "We are working with EMAS so there may be a mechanism in place to release the firefighters. If it doesn't happen for any reason then we will say it is not for us at this moment in time."
In another new development, the trading arm of the LF&R service is due to be rolled out on April 1 and it will be known as 'Incendi' – the Spanish word for 'fire'.
The trading arm is looking to boost funds in order to offset budget reductions in the next few years.
"The whole driver has come from us," added Mr Ramscar. "I am quite excited by it. We have a £200,000 loan from the county council and we will be live from April 1.
"We will be looking at the private sector to see what contracts may be available. It will not impact on our ability to produce a front line service. We have a legal requirement to provide a fire and rescue service.
A spokesman for the Lincolnshire County Council added: "Several translations of 'fire' were considered. The decision was made after looking at available web domain names."
Thin end of the wedge here IMHO. If there is a need for more Ambulances get more Ambulances! Is this another method of fudging attendance times for ambos? What if the FF's are required for fire call?
Merging/privatising of the services the next tory sell off?