Firefighters ‘covering’ for paramedics on emergency calls in South Yorkshire today warned: “Lives are being at risk.”
The Fire Brigades Union says its members are being put in a ‘moral and ethical dilemma’ when they have to provide medical support to casualties while waiting for paramedics.
In one incident, in Edlington, Doncaster, firefighters found an elderly lady who had apparently died and relatives said she had a ‘do not resuscitate’ order on her.
When a medic did turn up, the FBU says he told firefighters he had been on his way, but was stood down by controllers when they heard a fire crew had arrived.
The FBU said incidents in Sheffield included firefighters waiting an hour with an 84-year-old with a history of stroke problems who had collapsed in Shiregreen, on January 3, because Yorkshire Ambulance Service initially refused to send paramedics.
In another incident the same day, an injured motorcyclist had to wait by the side of the road for more than 90 minutes before an ambulance crew arrived to treat him.
Police had to wait with the casualty until medics arrived at the scene in Southey Green.
YAS said it has been experiencing a ‘very high number’ of 999 calls and is ‘mindful’ extended response times for its crews can have an impact on other emergency services.
Since last spring, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has had a contract with the service, which involves crews attending calls to help paramedics access properties.
However, the FBU says the arrangement has resulted in members being called to medical incidents and increasingly being relied on to provide care, because of ambulances failing to turn up.
Recent figures show Yorkshire Ambulance Service has failed to reach a third of seriously-ill patients in South Yorkshire within its eight-minute target since April.
The FBU says it is concerned the situation ‘could put lives at risk’, either because firefighters do not have the right training to deal with a medical emergency, or because someone needing a fire crew does not get one in time.
Neil Carbutt, of the FBU, said: “The public are being put at risk because of cuts to staff, resources and equipment in both the NHS and fire and rescue service.
“The knock-on effect means fire emergencies and vital prevention work will be compromised.
“Most firefighters do not have the relevant training to provide initial first aid.
“It is not right for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and YAS to put firefighters in a moral and ethical dilemma by expecting them to attend emergencies which require an ambulance not a fire crew.”
Dr David Macklin, of YAS, said: “In recent weeks we have been experiencing a very high number of 999 calls with incidents to the most seriously ill and injured patients up more than 18 per cent in December. This increase in activity has affected our response times.
“We are supportive of our emergency service colleagues and the fantastic work they do.
“We are mindful extended response times can have an impact on them when attending incidents alongside us.”
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