Fire-fighters to become 'paramedics' as ambulance stations face the axe

The Northern Echo: EMERGENCY SERVICES: Middleton-in-Teesdale Ambulance Station EMERGENCY SERVICES: Middleton-in-Teesdale Ambulance Station

AMBULANCE bosses are planning to use fire-fighters as ‘first responders’ to people having a cardiac arrest, at the same time as drawing up controversial plans to sell off rural ambulance stations.

A pilot scheme designed to speed up the response to medical emergencies has been launched jointly by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) in the Durham Dales.

Already underway in Middleton-in-Teesdale, the scheme will be rolled out to Stanhope, in Weardale, and is due to run until March.

As part of the project, which has been tried in other parts of the country, fire-fighters have received special training from ambulance staff so they can respond to a limited range of medical emergencies. This includes helping people who have had chest pains, breathing problems and cardiac arrests.

But at the same time the NEAS has quietly drawn up plans to close and sell off ambulance stations in Middleton-in-Teesdale and St John’s Chapel, at the top of Weardale.

Brief details of the sell-off plans were contained at the end of a 20 page document which went before the last NEAS board.

The closure plans have been condemned by Councillor John Shuttleworth, who represents Weardale on Durham County Council .

The Independent councillor accused the NEAS of seeking to close the stations without fully informing local people.

He said the plans to dispose of the two ambulance stations during 2015-16 had not been publicised because of the reaction they would provoke in the Durham Dales.

“They knew that if they publicised these details they would have to explain their actions to 200 people at a public meeting ,” said Coun Shuttleworth.

He added: “My concern is that this pilot scheme could eventually undermine ambulance provision.”

Conservative councillor Richard Bell, who represents Barnard Castle West, said: “I welcome the first responder extra capacity offered by the fire service, but this mustn’t be allowed to let NEAS off the hook in their duty to provide a quick backup response of qualified paramedics. The presence of the ambulance stations at St John’s and Middleton is important because it anchors the ambulances and paramedics in the dales to some extent.

“I and most people in the Dales will need a lot of convincing it’s safe to close the stations and we will resist any such proposal,” he added.

Joy Urwin, spokeswoman for the Durham Dales Ambulance Monitoring Group said: “Any proposal to close the ambulance stations in Middleton-in-Teesdale and St John's Chapel would be strongly opposed by the communities.”

Clive Scott, who lives in Upper Teesdale, said: “I think it’s a disgrace. This part of the county is being forgotten about.”

Charles Owston, from Middleton-in-Teesdale, said: “All the talk about ten minute response times for a heart attack is just not going to happen here.”

Keith Wanley, area manager for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said: “All fire-fighters have extensive training in providing emergency care. This is just an extension to an existing role but one that will save even more lives.”

The fire service will only be called on when fire-fighters are able to attend an incident quicker than the NEAS and an ambulance will be despatched to the scene at the same time.

A spokeswoman for the NEAS said: “Our partnership with the fire service is a win-win situation for everyone. It is an extra resource for the area. People can rest assured that they will not be losing anything.”

She said the two stations were in a poor state of repair and replacing them with “alternative venues covering the same area” is in the best interests of patients and the crews.

Tony Curry, Fire Brigades Union branch secretary for County Durham and Darlington, said there had been problems with similar schemes in other parts of the country and the union wanted to see an agreed national policy before any more schemes were introduced.

Comments (7)

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12:05pm Tue 8 Jul 14

Longbowman666 says...

No doubt many will see this as a bad move, but the US and many other countries have been doing this for many years now, and it works effectively. Often the fire service are the first on scene at accidents such as RTC's (Road Traffic Collisions) or structural incidents as well as their role as firefighters, so to expand on that role is fairly sensible.
No doubt many will see this as a bad move, but the US and many other countries have been doing this for many years now, and it works effectively. Often the fire service are the first on scene at accidents such as RTC's (Road Traffic Collisions) or structural incidents as well as their role as firefighters, so to expand on that role is fairly sensible. Longbowman666
  • Score: -18

3:10pm Tue 8 Jul 14

ChrisJonesMCPara says...

Dear Editor

I feel the need to respond personally to your misleading headline "Fire-fighters to become 'paramedics' as ambulance stations face the axe". As a Senior Lecturer in Paramedic Science at Teesside University and Acting Elected Council Member for the College of Paramedics Northern Region I believe you are potentially misinforming the public and more importantly, by suggesting fire-fighters will become paramedics, misleading the public into thinking they will receive a similar standard of care.
The role of the paramedic has evolved from modest beginnings to a highly specialised out of hospital care provider in a short number of years. Paramedics have developed critical thinking and clinical skills commensurate with an important and respected role that not only involves transportation to hospital but enables paramedics to make clinical decisions in highly complex situations while providing critical interventions normally only undertaken by the medical profession.
Paramedics have access to a wide range of prescription only medicines including controlled drugs to offer life saving, pain controlling and stabilising treatments which are given independently by the paramedic without the need of a doctor, therefore require a vast underpinning pharmacological knowledge base.
Whilst no paramedic would dispute the expertise that the fire service brings to certain situations encountered by the paramedic such a road traffic collisions, rescue situations and fires, to compare a first responder to a paramedic is like comparing a paramedic to a fire-fighter because they have access to a fire extinguisher, something I think a fire fighter would find insulting.
First responders are already utilised by ambulance services nation-wide to provide emergency life saving interventions such as defibrillation and oxygen therapy in areas where ambulances have an extended response time. This is nothing new. They save lives and are an excellent resource. But they are not a replacement for an effective paramedic service and should not be compared as such.

Yours Sincerely

Chris Jones
Dear Editor I feel the need to respond personally to your misleading headline "Fire-fighters to become 'paramedics' as ambulance stations face the axe". As a Senior Lecturer in Paramedic Science at Teesside University and Acting Elected Council Member for the College of Paramedics Northern Region I believe you are potentially misinforming the public and more importantly, by suggesting fire-fighters will become paramedics, misleading the public into thinking they will receive a similar standard of care. The role of the paramedic has evolved from modest beginnings to a highly specialised out of hospital care provider in a short number of years. Paramedics have developed critical thinking and clinical skills commensurate with an important and respected role that not only involves transportation to hospital but enables paramedics to make clinical decisions in highly complex situations while providing critical interventions normally only undertaken by the medical profession. Paramedics have access to a wide range of prescription only medicines including controlled drugs to offer life saving, pain controlling and stabilising treatments which are given independently by the paramedic without the need of a doctor, therefore require a vast underpinning pharmacological knowledge base. Whilst no paramedic would dispute the expertise that the fire service brings to certain situations encountered by the paramedic such a road traffic collisions, rescue situations and fires, to compare a first responder to a paramedic is like comparing a paramedic to a fire-fighter because they have access to a fire extinguisher, something I think a fire fighter would find insulting. First responders are already utilised by ambulance services nation-wide to provide emergency life saving interventions such as defibrillation and oxygen therapy in areas where ambulances have an extended response time. This is nothing new. They save lives and are an excellent resource. But they are not a replacement for an effective paramedic service and should not be compared as such. Yours Sincerely Chris Jones ChrisJonesMCPara
  • Score: 58

9:11pm Tue 8 Jul 14

jebernerc says...

Firstly.....in the USA some firefighters are paramedics due to the fact they have no NHS the emergency response is one and the same and not a case of firefighters providing a first response. Secondly Paramedics are highly skilled and carry specialised equipment as well as prescription medication. As a firefighter I have a basic trauma skill set which aims to provide immediate care until medical professionals arrive ie paramedics. I agree with the previous comment that this undermines the professionalism and level of care you would expect from a fully trained medical responder.it is my experience that this is the view of the vast majority of firefighters. Our training is intense and highly specialised as is that of Paramedics who we are always happy to see take over the care of people with a medical emergency. You should fight tooth and nail to keep these services seperate and highly specialised because they are something you can be proud of!
Firstly.....in the USA some firefighters are paramedics due to the fact they have no NHS the emergency response is one and the same and not a case of firefighters providing a first response. Secondly Paramedics are highly skilled and carry specialised equipment as well as prescription medication. As a firefighter I have a basic trauma skill set which aims to provide immediate care until medical professionals arrive ie paramedics. I agree with the previous comment that this undermines the professionalism and level of care you would expect from a fully trained medical responder.it is my experience that this is the view of the vast majority of firefighters. Our training is intense and highly specialised as is that of Paramedics who we are always happy to see take over the care of people with a medical emergency. You should fight tooth and nail to keep these services seperate and highly specialised because they are something you can be proud of! jebernerc
  • Score: 24

1:03am Wed 9 Jul 14

pandorica says...

ChrisJonesMCPara wrote:
Dear Editor

I feel the need to respond personally to your misleading headline "Fire-fighters to become 'paramedics' as ambulance stations face the axeWell said, I thought the very same after reading it, fire-fighters are not paramedics and vica verca. They all do an amazing job, will it work? lets hope so. If I was in need of help and the fire fighters arrived on scene first, I am sure I would be happy with the treatment given. But please Editor get your facts straight when reporting.
[quote][p][bold]ChrisJonesMCPara[/bold] wrote: Dear Editor I feel the need to respond personally to your misleading headline "Fire-fighters to become 'paramedics' as ambulance stations face the axeWell said, I thought the very same after reading it, fire-fighters are not paramedics and vica verca. They all do an amazing job, will it work? lets hope so. If I was in need of help and the fire fighters arrived on scene first, I am sure I would be happy with the treatment given. But please Editor get your facts straight when reporting. pandorica
  • Score: 5

8:39pm Wed 9 Jul 14

Bergelmir says...

This is an excellent idea.

Hold on - I've thought of a slight problem - what happens if you have a fire AND a medical emergency at the same time. Which is the firefighter going to prioritise? Contain the fire to prevent further damage and injury while leaving the injured person until later, or attend to the injured person while the fire spreads and potentially causes more injuries? Still, I'm sure they've thought of that.

Wait, there's another problem here. What if the firefighter prioritises saving the injured person, but the fire then spreads. Surely the property owner will then sue the firefighter for allowing his / her property to burn. OK, I'm sure they've thought of that - prioritise the firefighting. What - you think that maybe people will then sue because they or their loved ones were injured, or even died, because the firefighters prioritised the fire instead of life saving? I'm sure they've thought of that too.

Hmmm... I've thought of another problem. What if the firefighter gets injured while fighting the fire. Who will sort him / her out?

Oh, hang on.... there's another problem. What happens if you need more treatment than the firefighter is trained to give you? The nearest ambulance is now a lot more than 8 minutes drive away, so you just lie there in pain, potentially dying, for longer, while the firefighter soothes your brow and gives you more aspirin.

I've just had another worry - it might be worse. What if the injury that requires attention, and the fire, aren't in the same place? I know, they've definitely thought of this. They'll just have twice as many fire crews, with twice as many vehicles, so they can head in different directions at the same time. That's brilliant. Ah - except that a fire engine costs more than twice as much as an ambulance, and firemen are paid more, so that will cost MORE money. Oh, and they'll have to build bigger fire stations to house these extra vehicles........

Perhaps what I meant to say in the beginning was "this is the most half-brained, poorly informed, badly thought out idea I have read in a long, long time. Whoever came up with this brilliant 'cost saving' measure should be sacked, because not only do they know nothing about firefighting or front-line health care, they can't even do basic operational scenario planning or simple cost modelling."
This is an excellent idea. Hold on - I've thought of a slight problem - what happens if you have a fire AND a medical emergency at the same time. Which is the firefighter going to prioritise? Contain the fire to prevent further damage and injury while leaving the injured person until later, or attend to the injured person while the fire spreads and potentially causes more injuries? Still, I'm sure they've thought of that. Wait, there's another problem here. What if the firefighter prioritises saving the injured person, but the fire then spreads. Surely the property owner will then sue the firefighter for allowing his / her property to burn. OK, I'm sure they've thought of that - prioritise the firefighting. What - you think that maybe people will then sue because they or their loved ones were injured, or even died, because the firefighters prioritised the fire instead of life saving? I'm sure they've thought of that too. Hmmm... I've thought of another problem. What if the firefighter gets injured while fighting the fire. Who will sort him / her out? Oh, hang on.... there's another problem. What happens if you need more treatment than the firefighter is trained to give you? The nearest ambulance is now a lot more than 8 minutes drive away, so you just lie there in pain, potentially dying, for longer, while the firefighter soothes your brow and gives you more aspirin. I've just had another worry - it might be worse. What if the injury that requires attention, and the fire, aren't in the same place? I know, they've definitely thought of this. They'll just have twice as many fire crews, with twice as many vehicles, so they can head in different directions at the same time. That's brilliant. Ah - except that a fire engine costs more than twice as much as an ambulance, and firemen are paid more, so that will cost MORE money. Oh, and they'll have to build bigger fire stations to house these extra vehicles........ Perhaps what I meant to say in the beginning was "this is the most half-brained, poorly informed, badly thought out idea I have read in a long, long time. Whoever came up with this brilliant 'cost saving' measure should be sacked, because not only do they know nothing about firefighting or front-line health care, they can't even do basic operational scenario planning or simple cost modelling." Bergelmir
  • Score: 5

9:07pm Wed 9 Jul 14

chrise88 says...

This is rubbish. They are not getting trained to be paramedics. First responders are active all over the north east and do a very good job and can save someone between life and death. The distance crews travel in rural areas can be long if the ambulance is busy elsewhere. They has been middleton first responders for years. The ambulance service is under pressure but give credit rather than grief for saving lives every day.
This is rubbish. They are not getting trained to be paramedics. First responders are active all over the north east and do a very good job and can save someone between life and death. The distance crews travel in rural areas can be long if the ambulance is busy elsewhere. They has been middleton first responders for years. The ambulance service is under pressure but give credit rather than grief for saving lives every day. chrise88
  • Score: 1

9:50pm Wed 9 Jul 14

tizzytizzy says...

Bergelmir wrote:
This is an excellent idea.

Hold on - I've thought of a slight problem - what happens if you have a fire AND a medical emergency at the same time. Which is the firefighter going to prioritise? Contain the fire to prevent further damage and injury while leaving the injured person until later, or attend to the injured person while the fire spreads and potentially causes more injuries? Still, I'm sure they've thought of that.

Wait, there's another problem here. What if the firefighter prioritises saving the injured person, but the fire then spreads. Surely the property owner will then sue the firefighter for allowing his / her property to burn. OK, I'm sure they've thought of that - prioritise the firefighting. What - you think that maybe people will then sue because they or their loved ones were injured, or even died, because the firefighters prioritised the fire instead of life saving? I'm sure they've thought of that too.

Hmmm... I've thought of another problem. What if the firefighter gets injured while fighting the fire. Who will sort him / her out?

Oh, hang on.... there's another problem. What happens if you need more treatment than the firefighter is trained to give you? The nearest ambulance is now a lot more than 8 minutes drive away, so you just lie there in pain, potentially dying, for longer, while the firefighter soothes your brow and gives you more aspirin.

I've just had another worry - it might be worse. What if the injury that requires attention, and the fire, aren't in the same place? I know, they've definitely thought of this. They'll just have twice as many fire crews, with twice as many vehicles, so they can head in different directions at the same time. That's brilliant. Ah - except that a fire engine costs more than twice as much as an ambulance, and firemen are paid more, so that will cost MORE money. Oh, and they'll have to build bigger fire stations to house these extra vehicles........

Perhaps what I meant to say in the beginning was "this is the most half-brained, poorly informed, badly thought out idea I have read in a long, long time. Whoever came up with this brilliant 'cost saving' measure should be sacked, because not only do they know nothing about firefighting or front-line health care, they can't even do basic operational scenario planning or simple cost modelling."
That is absolutely spot on, an astute observation into a ridiculous idea, keep the ambulance stations and man them properly
[quote][p][bold]Bergelmir[/bold] wrote: This is an excellent idea. Hold on - I've thought of a slight problem - what happens if you have a fire AND a medical emergency at the same time. Which is the firefighter going to prioritise? Contain the fire to prevent further damage and injury while leaving the injured person until later, or attend to the injured person while the fire spreads and potentially causes more injuries? Still, I'm sure they've thought of that. Wait, there's another problem here. What if the firefighter prioritises saving the injured person, but the fire then spreads. Surely the property owner will then sue the firefighter for allowing his / her property to burn. OK, I'm sure they've thought of that - prioritise the firefighting. What - you think that maybe people will then sue because they or their loved ones were injured, or even died, because the firefighters prioritised the fire instead of life saving? I'm sure they've thought of that too. Hmmm... I've thought of another problem. What if the firefighter gets injured while fighting the fire. Who will sort him / her out? Oh, hang on.... there's another problem. What happens if you need more treatment than the firefighter is trained to give you? The nearest ambulance is now a lot more than 8 minutes drive away, so you just lie there in pain, potentially dying, for longer, while the firefighter soothes your brow and gives you more aspirin. I've just had another worry - it might be worse. What if the injury that requires attention, and the fire, aren't in the same place? I know, they've definitely thought of this. They'll just have twice as many fire crews, with twice as many vehicles, so they can head in different directions at the same time. That's brilliant. Ah - except that a fire engine costs more than twice as much as an ambulance, and firemen are paid more, so that will cost MORE money. Oh, and they'll have to build bigger fire stations to house these extra vehicles........ Perhaps what I meant to say in the beginning was "this is the most half-brained, poorly informed, badly thought out idea I have read in a long, long time. Whoever came up with this brilliant 'cost saving' measure should be sacked, because not only do they know nothing about firefighting or front-line health care, they can't even do basic operational scenario planning or simple cost modelling."[/p][/quote]That is absolutely spot on, an astute observation into a ridiculous idea, keep the ambulance stations and man them properly tizzytizzy
  • Score: 4
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