London Mayoral candidate Stephen Greenhalgh today called for medically trained firefighters to be allowed to respond to serious medical emergencies – and help save Londoners’ lives.
Mr Greenhalgh – the former leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council – is running to win the Conservative Mayoral nomination.
He challenged the London Fire Brigade Union to change its rules so firefighters, if suitably trained, are permitted to assist paramedics in the case of serious emergencies (eg cardiac arrests) and at times of high demand, such as New Year’s Eve, or industrial action.
Many FBU branches in other parts of the country agree locally to help. But in London, leaders of the Fire Brigade Union want a national agreement to be struck before allowing this.
His call for medically trained firefighters to be allowed to back up paramedics comes as a new poll by YouGov reveals the majority of Londoners back him on his proposal.
Nearly six in 10 Londoners (58 per cent) think medically trained firefighters should be able to respond, while only three in 10 (30 per cent) oppose and just over one in 10 (12 per cent) were unsure.
The results are even more stark when those intending to vote Conservative (69 per cent support) or Liberal Democrat (72 per cent support) in May’s General Election are taken into account.
Mr Greenhalgh, currently London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “I challenge the Fire Brigade Union in London to provide medical back-up to the London Ambulance Service in serious emergencies or when demand is high, like New Year’s Eve or industrial action.
“Unlike other parts of the country where blue light services work more closely together, union rules in London stop the fire brigade from using medically trained firefighters to assist paramedics, even though demand on the brigade is falling and ambulance staff are under huge pressure and struggling to cope.”
The call is part of Mr Greenhalgh’s proposal to overhaul emergency services in the capital so they are an integrated unit with faster 999 response times – and save money.
He said he would also create a new “super control room” covering the three emergency services – police, fire and ambulance – where all 999 calls would be routed.
At the moment the London Ambulance Service runs two control rooms, with the police and Fire Brigade running one each. All these do a similar job with comparable technology. By joining these up into one “super-control room” – as in other big cities and other parts of the country – the 999 response service would be improved while money could be saved and re-invested in the frontline.
Figures show that while demands on the police and fire service are falling, pressure on the ambulance service is rising:
- The police still receive the most 999 calls in London (1.8 million calls in 2013/14) but demands on it are falling and its response times have improved since 2011.
- The fire service received 170,000 calls in 2013/14. Demands on it are also falling and its response times have remained within target overall.
- The ambulance service received 1.7 million calls in 2013/14 – and its response times are well below the national target of 75 per cent, with just 64 per cent of top priority calls responded to within eight minutes in October 2014.
Mr Greenhalgh said: “Our police officers, firefighters and paramedics do a wonderful job keeping us safe – but they need help.
“The challenge for a future Mayor is to find ways to improve the speed and quality of the emergency response of all blue light services across London – while saving money that can go back into frontline services.
“As demand on our emergency services grow, it is imperative that a future Mayor re-designs services so that 999 continues to be a service that all Londoners can rely on.
“As Mayor, I will get the fire, police and ambulance services working more closely together – this will ensure a faster and more integrated emergency service response that will hugely benefit Londoners.”
Today’s call forms part of a series of five public safety challenges for a future mayor that Stephen Greenhalgh is outlining during his selection campaign.