Fire chief says crews should attend medical emergencies

06 May 2015

Firefighters in Scotland could be asked to assist ambulance crews in dealing with medical emergencies such as people suffering from heart attacks.

Steven Torrie, Chief Inspector for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said that because fire crews are more community-based, they are able to attend emergencies faster than ambulance crews ‘nine times out of ten’.

“Firefighters are trained and they can be trained further. They have hundreds of defibrillator devices between them and they could contribute in a big way.

"The process is straightforward but it could make a big difference to Scotland's health,” he said.

This follows on from an independent report published last year which called for a ‘transformational change’ in the relationship between Scottish Fire and Rescue and the ambulance service.

The report cited that more than half of Scotland’s fire appliances are equipped with defibrillators, for use in the event that a firefighter has a cardiac arrest whilst on duty, but rarely used in any other capacity.

A pilot scheme established at one station allowed crews to respond to medical calls in their station area, with some success.

Stephen Thomson from the Fire Brigades Union, however, highlighted the dangers of extending the roles of fire crews beyond their traditional training.

"I was given the anecdotal example of a crew that was turned out for a call that they realised was not for a cardiac arrest but for a diabetic coma.

"Firefighters are not trained for that and do not have the expertise to deal with it. Those issues need to be looked at."

Original sources

The Herald

The Scottish Government

The Highland Times