People who dial 999 after having a heart attack could be treated by a firefighter under a new scheme introduced in rural areas of West Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service has teamed up with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to pilot a project that would see on-call firefighters living in more remote communities being deployed as “first responders” in life-threatening medical emergencies like cardiac arrests.
They will be expected to give first aid to patients until an ambulance arrives.
Fire service area manager Nick Smith said: “When someone collapses from cardiac arrest their chance of survival drops 10% every minute until resuscitation is started.
“It makes absolute sense for firefighters who live and work in these rural localities and who are already trained in resuscitation and the use of a defibrilator, to get to the scene as early as possible to start this vital care.
“The emergency first responders will aim to arrive as quickly as possible which should improve the outcomes for patients and ultimately save lives.
“Ambulance crews will continue to respond to these emergencies in the same way as they do now.
“This scheme provides an additional service to patients in rural communities, and is aimed at helping to save more lives.”
The scheme will be piloted in Featherstone, Ilkley and Skelmanthorpe near Huddersfield.
The fire service said it had already been successful in other areas and was introduced by Humberside Fire and Rescue Service in 2013.
Firefighters being deployed as first responders will have a separate uniform and will travel in a marked car with blue lights, not a fire engine. They will not transport patients to hospital.
Dr David Macklin, executive director of operations at the ambulance service, said: “We have a responsibility to ensure we explore every available option to improve clinical outcomes for our patients. The Emergency First Responder scheme has already proven successful in Humberside and the East Riding.”
He added: “We have a very clear ambition to improve the survival rate for those people who suffer a cardiac arrest in the community. We want to have world class levels of survival from cardiac arrest and the development of this initiative is one more important element in saving more lives.
“West Yorkshire is already served by our award-winning community first responder teams who do a fantastic job as volunteers in their local areas. The addition of emergency first responders will further strengthen our response in these communities and the two models will work side-by-side to save more lives.”