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Pilot Scheme sees NIFRS enhance NIAS first response scheme.

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The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) have launched a pilot scheme in the Lurgan area (today, Monday 19 September). The scheme, which will see NIFRS personnel alerted to certain pre-determined emergency calls, is an extension of the successful NIAS first responder schemes that are in operation throughout rural communities in Northern Ireland.

Over 1400 people suffer “out of hospital cardiac arrests” in Northern Ireland every year. Less than 10% of these survive. Research has shown that early CPR and defibrillation greatly enhance survival rates. As part of this scheme NIFRS crews in the Lurgan area will be notified of cardiac/respiratory arrest and chest pain related calls. It is important to note that an ambulance response will also be despatched to the call and that NIFRS attendance is not an alternative to the normal NIAS response.

The pilot will run for six months and it is hoped that it will prove to be of benefit to the local community by providing greater potential for early CPR and defibrillation. The local Firefighters participating in the scheme, and who may arrive in advance of Paramedics, will be trained to a recognised standard of “First Person on Scene; Intermediate” level which will enable them to administer lifesaving medical treatment and stabilise the situation until the arrival of Paramedics.

Welcoming the introduction of the pilot scheme, Mark Cochrane, NIAS Area Manager, said; “We already work closely with NIFRS colleagues at Road Traffic Collisions and Major Incidents and this is an extension of that joint work which will help patients with an immediately life-threatening condition.

“This pilot also builds on the collaborative work that NIAS has undertaken through Community First Response and Public Access Defibrillation schemes. We believe that this initiative will add significantly to the ability to commence CPR at the earliest possible moment. We highlight, quite extensively, that the delivery of early CPR and defibrillation to patients in cardiac arrest are the main factors that greatly enhance their chances of survival.

“The ambulance service will continue to respond to such calls as Category A response but the best thing for the patient is to ensure that someone trained in basic life support is at their side as quickly as possible.”

Gary Thompson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer said,  “NIFRS is committed to exploring opportunities for collaborative working to deliver an improved service to the community. I believe this pilot scheme is a very positive development and underlines our vision of protecting our community. 

“I would like to thank Lurgan Fire Station and our Regional Control Centre personnel for their commitment and professionalism in bringing this pilot scheme to fruition.  

“The scheme has been registered with the National Joint Council and has approval from the Fire Brigade’s Union.  It brings us into line with the collaborative working arrangements which other UK Fire & Rescue Services have with their Ambulance Service colleagues.

“I would like to reassure the local community that providing fire and rescue cover will always remain a priority and that essential cover is in place during the pilot scheme.”

The scheme will run for a 6 month period commencing on Monday 19 September and will be evaluated by both services to examine its potential for continuation and further roll out throughout Northern Ireland.

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