With an ongoing shortage in ambulance staff, unqualified fire-fighters are being made to help on medical emergencies. Many concerns have been raised over the suitability of this merger.

Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue is being made to support paramedics in medical incidents. This is due to the shortage of ambulance staff and the increase in 999 calls.

Fire-fighters working alongside these calls currently do not have sufficient training to do so. They can only ‘apply basic first aid when necessary’.

Critics are also concerned that if fire-fighters are tied up attending medical emergencies then there will be fewer staff deal with outbreaks of fire.

This merger has become more important due to our ageing population which has increased the demand on the health service. But both fire-fighters and paramedics believe that their responsibilities should stay split:

“at the end of the day it’s not our job, I joined up to the fire service to fight fires…”
Shane france – firemen

“i think they’ve got their role, and we’ve got our role. They’ve got enough to do”
lee wakes – paramedic

And staff on the front line are worried that they do not have the right skills to cope with the increase in workload.

Audio: Shane France, Herts Fire and Rescue fire-fighter, believes more training is essential.

But the Fire Brigades’ Union believes that if appropriate training and equipment is given to fire-fighters, the idea of co-responding could be beneficial. The union believes the initiative could increase response times and survival rates.

It could also benefit fire-fighters as it would create more jobs. This is especially important due to the recent pension cuts made to fire-fighters.

“Widening the scope of all fire-fighters’ roles to include co-responding… should include additional pay” a spokesperson for the Fire Brigade Union said.

They added: “The challenge for us is if we restrict our role simply to fires, governments will find other agencies… to do the work”.

Hatfield fire-fighters are effected by this merge
Hatfield fire-fighters are effected by this merge

Fact File:

  • In 2013-14, fire and rescue services attended around 300,000 incidents whilst the ambulance service, responded to 2.9 million category A (immediately life threatening) incidents.
  • In 2013-14, there were 9.5 million emergency calls to the ambulance service, a rise from 5.6 millions calls in 2004-05.
  • Survival rates fall from 28% after 1 minute, to 12% after 5 minutes and under 6% after 8 minutes.
  • In 2015, the local government settlement earmarked the fire and rescue service for 8.8% central funding cuts.
  • From 2002 to 2014, people aged over 90 increased in size by more than a third from 350,700 people to 499,230 people.
    All statistics found from Office for National Statistics and the FBU Conference Meeting.