Residents in South Tyneside could soon see a fire engine turn up to a medical emergency.
A new pilot scheme is being launched which sees the North East Ambulance Service join forces with four fire brigades in the region – Cleveland Fire Brigade, Northumberland Fire and Rescue, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
The six-month trial, which starts this month, will see firefighters become emergency medical responders (EMRs), despatched to medical emergencies, such as a cardiac arrest, along with the paramedics.
Ian Hayton, Chief Fire Officer for Cleveland Fire Brigade, who is heading up the co-responding project, said fire stations are based in communities, which means the EMRs can often be on the scene quicker than the paramedics.
He said: “The scheme involves trained firefighters attending incidents in areas where we can reach a casualty and maintain life or reduce suffering and anxiety until a paramedic arrives.
“This really is a lifesaving partnership.”
Caroline Thurlbeck, director of the North East Ambulance Service, said: “NEAS receives a new 999 call every 65 seconds, and in an emergency, every second counts.
“Our ambition for this trial is to improve the survival rate for those people who suffer from a life-threatening illness or injury in the community.”
She added: “At NEAS, we are already supported by Community First Responder volunteers, who work tremendously hard and do a fantastic job in their local areas.
“The addition of EMRs will further strengthen our response in these communities.”
Chris Lowther, assistant Chief Fire Officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Responding to fires and emergencies will always be the top priority for our crews, but it makes sense to enable properly-trained firefighters to deliver appropriate medical assistance if they can get to the scene first, while an ambulance is on its way.”