Fire stations to support the NHS Ambulance Service response times
A new three month pilot will see East of England Ambulance crews use Frinton and Old Harlow Fire Stations as response hubs for crews out on the road.
The two sites have been chosen because of a pressing need in these areas to improve ambulance attendance times. If the pilot is successful it may be expanded to Chelmsford, Colchester and Waltham Abbey Fire Stations later in 2015.
Fire stations will be used as what East of England Ambulance describes as Dynamic Activation Points (DAP’s). Ambulance crews will be allocated an identified hatched area located on ECFRS station forecourts between 6am and 2am and will turn out during these times to emergency calls with an additional advantage of the crews being able to use fire station toilet facilities, rest areas and take on some light refreshments. If they respond to a ‘999’ call, then another ambulance or paramedic vehicle will be redeployed to take its place.
“The facility allows the Ambulance Service to have more people in the right place when they are needed and should get ambulances to people quicker,” explained Assistant Divisional Officer Mark Wilby, ECFRS Project Manager. “The pilot is simply an extension of ECFRS’ commitment to strengthening partnerships and shared services with other blue lights services.
“Firefighters very often work alongside Ambulance teams at the scene of road traffic collisions and by providing ambulance colleagues with a bolt hole, there will be the positive practical benefits but also the move should help to develop relationships on the ground and potentially lead to greater understanding and potentially further down the line joint training and information sharing.
“We obviously recognise the constraints of the Old Harlow site but this is one area where the East of England Ambulance is struggling to meet its attendance times and has an urgent need so we will do all we can to accommodate crews there.”
Ambulance crews will be given fob access for security and ambulance service vehicles will have designated parking spots.
“This is not about replacing ambulance stations,” ADO Wilby added. “Ambulance crews will still pick up their vehicles, do their safety checks, paperwork and daily business routines back at base – access to our fire stations will allow the Ambulance Service to respond to incidents much faster and to be able to use our welfare facilities. Each vehicle will spend no longer than 45 minutes at the fire station if no emergency call is received during that time before moving on and another team will then take their place.”
The pilot is due to start in mid-January. If successful the two organisations will look to expand the arrangement under more commercial terms, potentially as an income generation opportunity for ECFRS.
ECFRS already hosts Essex Police and The Coastguard on fire stations in Essex.