CheshireCheshire firefighters are helping to deliver life-saving treatment for cardiac arrest patients in partnership with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).

From this week, when a person dials 999 to report a suspected cardiac arrest (a condition where the heart stops pumping blood around the body because of a fatal abnormal heart rhythm), both NWAS and firefighters will respond and whoever reaches the casualty first, will start providing life-saving treatment. Once the ambulance crew arrives, advanced life support will commence and the patient will be handed into the care of NWAS. Initially this project will be run as a pilot scheme in Crewe, Frodsham, Holmes Chapel and Warrington but will hopefully be extended to all stations in the future.

Similar schemes have launched in Lancashire and Greater Manchester in 2015, and more recently in Merseyside at the beginning of 2016 and all have proved to be very successful.

There will be no change to the system of assigning and sending ambulances and medical staff to emergencies. The scheme works in a similar way to NWAS’ volunteer Community First Responder scheme, where trained members of the public are dispatched to life-threatening emergency calls within their local community.

Under the new scheme the fire and rescue service will be contacted when a suspected cardiac arrest is reported near to one of the response stations. The added advantage to despatching fire crews is their advanced training and their ability to respond on blue lights, therefore arriving more quickly to a situation where literally every second can mean the difference between life and death. Fire crews will be despatched at the same time as an ambulance.

Early intervention in cases of cardiac arrest is vital to the patient’s chances of survival and subsequent recovery - for every minute that passes before basic life support can be administered, the chances of survival decrease by 10 per cent. To allow the best chances of survival, the 'Chain of Survival' points towards an early '999' call, early Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), early defibrillation and early Advanced Life Support.

When acting as First Responders for NWAS, suitably trained and equipped firefighters will give lifesaving  medical  treatment  in  the  form  of  CPR  and  the  use  of  an  Automated  External Defibrillator (AED), stabilising the situation until advanced clinical care is provided by ambulance crews. They may then continue to assist in providing extra help with CPR, allowing medical staff to focus on more advanced skills and treatment.

Mark Cashin, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer said: "We have a clear vision of a Cheshire where there are no deaths or injuries from fires or other emergencies and so we are delighted to be embarking on this exciting partnership initiative. We understand that with cardiac arrests every second counts and that the training and location of our crews puts us in an ideal position to support our partners in the North West Ambulance Service to deliver this potentially life saving service."

North West Ambulance Service, Director of Operations, Ged Blezard comments: “This is an extremely positive project and it’s great to work with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service on a scheme that will contribute to saving lives in Cheshire.

"The chances of survival from cardiac arrest diminish rapidly with every passing second so the sooner someone can receive treatment, the greater their chances are of leading a full and healthy life afterwards. It doesn’t matter who gives that treatment - whether it is a member of the public, an ambulance crew or a fire crew so the more resources there are available to respond, the better for those who suffer this potentially devastating condition.

"Last year, the ambulance service responded to 1763 incidents in Cheshire where the patient had reported a cardiac arrest - sadly, despite everyone's best efforts, not everyone survives but everyone deserves that chance and this is what this scheme will give people."