Lancashire firefighters being sent to deal with medical emergencies
Firefighters in Lancashire were sent to cover dozens of medical emergencies last year.
Fire crews across England have increasingly been dispatched to medical calls in recent years, prompting concerns about strain on firefighter resources and a lack of proper first aid training.
The Fire Brigades Union says the national rise in medical responses is typical of the additional pressures being put on firefighters, and that they should not be asked to play the part of doctors or paramedics.
The Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service recorded 63 non fire-related medical incidents in 2018-19, according to the latest Home Office statistics.
This was the same as the number of responses recorded in 2010-11, however, the earliest period for which data is available.
The opposite was seen across England, where fire crews were called to 19,900 such cases last year – a 77 per cent increase from eight years previously.
The number of call-outs peaked at 45,700 in 2016-17, a year after emergency medical response trials were introduced that saw fire crews respond to medical emergencies alongside paramedics.
The Fire Brigades Union withdrew from the scheme in 2017, but fire services are still responding to far more medical incidents than before it began.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said any increase to firefighters’ workloads should include a “significant” increase in their pay, along with appropriate training.
“Firefighters are there to keep their communities safe from fire and other hazardous emergency incidents,” he added.
“While there may be occasions when firefighters are required to attend medical emergencies, they are not doctors, paramedics, nurses, or social carers – and nor should they be.
“Firefighters are overstretched and under-paid, and services are under-resourced.”
At the time the FBU withdrew from the trial, the National Fire Chiefs Council said it was “very disappointed” with the decision.
An NFCC spokeswoman said the Policing and Crime Act 2017 still required emergency services to collaborate, which could account for the increase in incidents.
She added: “All fire and rescue services have their own risk plans to ensure communities are kept safe, and resources – such as fire appliances and firefighters – are always available to meet their emergencies.”
There was huge variation in how many medical emergencies fire services responded to across the country last year.
While the Kent Fire and Rescue Service came top of the table with 5,600, the figure for the services in both Northumberland and Hertfordshire was just two.
A Home Office spokesman said the rise in the number of medical incidents attended by fire crews coincided with the introduction of the emergency medical response trials.
He added: “The Fire Brigades Union has since instructed their members to withdraw from the trials and as a result, some of this work has now stopped.”