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Blue light services launch West Yorkshire’s first Emergency First Responder scheme

Thirty-three on-call firefighters at Skelmanthorpe, Featherstone and Ilkley will soon be responding to life-threatening emergency calls at the same time as an ambulance, thanks to the launch of West Yorkshire’s first Emergency First Responder (EFR) scheme.

The pilot scheme is a joint initiative between Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) and West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service (WYFRS).  It follows the success of the first scheme which has been running in Humberside and the East Riding of Yorkshire for the last two years and the South Yorkshire scheme which was launched in October 2015.

Skelmanthorpe will be the first station to go live from 23 February 2016, with Featherstone and Ilkley becoming operational in March.

Each EFR has been trained in basic life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and oxygen therapy. They are equipped with a kit which includes oxygen and an automated external defibrillator (AED) to help patients in a medical emergency such as a heart attack, collapse or breathing difficulties.

An EFR will be dispatched at the same time as an ambulance and will not replace the usual emergency medical response from YAS. However, their location within local communities could mean they are nearer to the scene in those first critical minutes of a medical emergency, delivering life-saving care until an ambulance clinician arrives.

Paul Stevens, Head of Community Resilience at YAS said: “We have a responsibility to ensure we explore all available options to improve clinical outcomes for people in Yorkshire and we are delighted to be working in partnership with WYFRS on this Emergency First Responder scheme.

“We have a very clear ambition to improve the survival rate for those people who suffer from a cardiac arrest in the community and we want to have world-class levels of survival.  The expansion of this initiative is another important element of this.

“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 has further strengthened our response in these communities and the two models work side-by-side to save more lives.

“We are also working with health partners, Clinical Commissioning Groups, local MPs, Councillors and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to increase the number of public access defibrillators in the area and further improve cardiac arrest survival rates.”

Emergency First Responders are only available for dispatch when staffing levels at their Fire Station allow and the scheme will not have an adverse impact on fire cover.  The scheme will be closely monitored throughout the pilot and fully evaluated prior to any decisions being made about the long-term future of the scheme.

WYFRS Area Manager Nick Smith said: “We are very excited to be launching the scheme and working with Yorkshire Ambulance Service to improve the chances of people surviving a cardiac arrest in these rural communities.  This provision is over and above YAS’s current response and will build on the Community First Responder schemes that are already in place throughout West Yorkshire.

“We all know that seconds count when people are suffering a cardiac arrest and the sooner we can resuscitate them and use an AED if necessary the more chance they have of survival.”

Chair of the Fire Authority, Councillor Judith Hughes, added: “We are delighted to see this pilot scheme launched and we are eager to see the benefits it could bring.

“Ultimately, our firefighters joined the emergency services to save as many lives as possible and this scheme has the potential to help them do just that, whilst assisting our blue light partners also.”

Councillor Graham Turner, who represents Denby Dale and is Chair of the Safer Kirklees Community Safety Partnership, added: “I really welcome the involvement of our local on-call firefighters in this new exciting initiative. This is about local people helping local residents in emergency situations. I fully support and welcome this new approach to providing emergency first response by local well-trained members of the Fire Service. Speed of response is vital for such life-threatening incidents as heart attacks and this opportunity to save lives and limit further damage to health is to be welcomed.”

YAS Head of Community Resilience Paul Stevens summed up the initiative by adding:
“The demands placed upon emergency services increase every year and our approaches to providing the best responses for positive patient outcomes are continually evolving. By exploring innovative and alternative ways of working with all our partners, together we can save more lives.”

The initial West Yorkshire EFR roll-out will be formally launched at Skelmanthorpe Fire Station, Cumberworth Road (at the junction of Lidget Lane) on Monday 22 February 2016 at 10.30am.

Photographers and journalists are welcome to attend, please contact the YAS Press Office to confirm on 0845 120 0048.

Produced By: Corporate Communications Department