Almost 300 ambulance shifts were completed by Norfolk’s firefighters during their first month of supporting their blue light colleagues during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first group of 24 on-call firefighters who volunteered for the secondment carried out 278 shifts, equating to 3,336 hours of work, during the first four weeks after completing their training.
They have now returned to their fire stations and been replaced with a further 25 on-call firefighters who started their ambulance work this week. Training is also being undertaken by up to 20 wholetime (full-time) firefighters over the next couple of weeks so that they can join the bank of staff available.
The firefighters have been working alongside medics from the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST), driving ambulances to enable more to be on the roads responding to incidents across Norfolk.
As part of the duties, one firefighter was called upon to help support the delivery of a baby during the first week of his duty and several firefighters have been involved in successful resuscitations of patients.
Firefighter Nathan Bootle, who works on-call at Great Yarmouth Fire Station, said he had really enjoyed his four-week stint with EEAST and hopes to return again if needed. FF Bootle, who works as a builder, said he had attended many varied incidents over the month and been warmly welcomed by all the staff he worked with. He was called to support the delivery of a baby during a home birth but the family did not require a trip to hospital.
Chief Fire Officer Stuart Ruff said: “The first month of our work for the ambulance service has been a huge success and ensured we work together to achieve our shared common goal of keeping the people of Norfolk safe. Our teams have merged into one blue-light family to deal with the pandemic and I am very grateful to all of those involved in this work at every stage, from the planning and training through to the completion of shifts as ambulance drivers.”
Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council, said: "The ambulance service has provided a warm welcome to our firefighters and both sides have seen the benefit of this latest collaboration."
Marcus Bailey, Chief Operating Officer with EEAST, said: “We are very grateful to our blue light colleagues in the fire and rescue service and would like to thank them for their help over the past few weeks.
“We truly appreciate the fantastic support we have received from the fire service, the public, businesses and our other partners, which is helping keep our patients, staff, volunteers and the wider public safe during this pandemic. We would urge people to continue to play their part in helping the NHS by taking extra care of themselves, only going out for essential items, observing advice about hand-washing and maintaining social distancing.”
As well as the ambulance work, Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service has also been supporting EEAST by attending forced entry calls to gain access for medics where there is a medical emergency.
NFRS has also supported police colleagues by responding to more road traffic collisions and attending incidents on major road networks to assist police where there is a risk to the public.
Fire and police driving instructors were also supplied to help train people to drive patient transport ambulances.
Fire service staff have also supported Norfolk's Covid-19 response by helping to deliver medicines and other vital goods and are prepared to assist at Norfolk's temporary mortuary if it is required.