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Firefighters from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service are playing a key role in relieving pressure on paramedics during the coronavirus outbreak.

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has invested in additional ambulances for the region, two of which will be coming to Dorset and two to Wiltshire.

The ambulances will be driven by firefighters who are trained to drive emergency response vehicles and carry out first aid. With these skills, firefighters will be able to support the ambulance service at a time when they are under increased pressure. They will be transferring patients to and from hospital alongside a clinician and they will also act as first responders for some life-threatening calls with a paramedic.

Other duties being carried out by the fire and rescue service to support the community include:

  • Helping to package and deliver food and medication to vulnerable members of the community;
  • Helping to construct, fit and train NHS staff in the use of respiratory Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and
  • Face-fit testing of PPE for ambulance staff.

The Service is also in the process of considering how it can work with local authorities to provide assistance at temporary mortuary sites for victims of Covid-19.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said: ‘It’s good news we have more ambulances coming to Dorset and Wiltshire and I’m grateful to our firefighters for their support. Many of our firefighters are highly trained emergency response drivers, accustomed to dealing with emergency situations and I know they want to help in any way they can during this crisis.

‘Agencies are working closely together during the coronavirus outbreak to help keep residents safe, and the collaboration between our fire and rescue service and the ambulance service will ensure our residents get medical care quickly if they need it.

‘While we ask the public to stay at home, our firefighters will be able to use their transferable skills to support the ambulance service and the wider community in a variety of challenging roles, so we owe them a debt of gratitude.’

Derek McCullough, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust interoperable capabilities officer, said: ‘We are delighted about this partnership with fire service colleagues across the South West to support our frontline care of patients. We have invested in 15 additional ambulance vehicles, which have now been allocated to this important partnership initiative.

‘The partnership will enable us to make more efficient use of our resources and help us deal with the expected increase in demand over the upcoming weeks. This will mean we are better equipped to reach those patients most in need of our care, and ultimately to save more lives.’

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