24 August 2015 - NWAS & Lancashire Fire Service Introduce Life-Saving CFR Scheme

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) crews are to operate as life-saving Community First Responders (CFR) as part of a new joint initiative with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).

CFR Launch

Photo: NWAS Director of Operations Derek Cartwright and LFRS Deputy Chief Fire Officer Justin Johnston with fire, ambulance and CFR crews at Morecambe Fire Station

The six month pilot project, operating from Morecambe and Ormskirk Fire Stations, is an extension of NWAS’ highly successful CFR scheme. CFRs are volunteers who support the Trust by responding to serious and life-threatening incidents in their communities to provide help to patients while the ambulance is en route. NWAS has a network of 348 CFRs in Lancashire, including 28 CFRs from LFRS. The project went live on 24 August – with a media launch taking place at Morecambe Fire Station.

The firefighters, fully trained as CFRs by NWAS, will save many lives by attending time critical emergencies such as heart attacks and cardiac arrests. All the firefighters are skilled in first aid at work and are all trauma trained. The crews involved in the CFR project have been given an additional 20 hours training. All NWAS CFRs are trained in how to recognise a cardiac arrest, dealing with patients who are fitting, administering oxygen and dealing with an obstructive airway.

Unlike other CFRs, fire crews have the added advantage of being able to respond to patients using blue lights, ensuring a speedy response, and are all professionals with extensive experience of working in very difficult situations. All LFRS crews carry defibrillators and oxygen, but those acting as CFRs will also be equipped with further pieces of equipment including suction units, pulse oximeters and bandages. 

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The fire crews will be sent to serious and life-threatening medical emergencies in and around Morecambe and Ormskirk. They will respond to NWAS Red 1 and Red 2 cases and be mobilised simultaneously with an ambulance crew. NWAS dispatchers will page on duty fire officers and send them to Red calls if they are closer to a patient than an ambulance when the 999 call comes through. CFRs rendered potentially life-saving aid 3,992 times in 2014/15 across Lancashire. Clinical evidence shows that patients in life-threatening situations who receive rapid intervention have a significantly better chance of survival.

Derek Cartwright, North West Ambulance Service Director of Operations, said: “This is an extremely positive project and it’s great to work with LFRS on a scheme that will contribute to saving lives here in the North West.

“NWAS receives, on average, 260 calls for patients in life-threatening situations every day across Lancashire. This is our opportunity to use the fantastic expertise LFRS has in dealing with emergencies and get help to patients as quickly as possible.

“Rural and semi-rural towns like Morecambe and Ormskirk are a particular challenge for the ambulance service. If a patient suffers from a cardiac arrest for example, their chance of survival reduces by around 10% for every minute treatment is delayed – this scheme will provide additional protection for our patients in more sparsely populated areas. I would like to thank the LFRS and the fire crews in both Morecambe and Ormskirk for their contribution in getting the scheme underway and welcome them to our CFR network here in Lancashire.”

Justin Johnston, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It makes absolute sense for our firefighters to become Community First Responders (CFRs) in Lancashire, joining the ranks of other CFRs in the county, supporting NWAS paramedics and saving lives.

“As CFRs they will bring a wealth of existing experience, such as getting to an emergency by fire engine under ‘blues and twos’ and working alongside paramedics to deal with the trauma of casualties caught up in emergency incidents. As CFRs at a medical emergency they will bring skills and resources to the incident additional to their existing skills of CPR, use of defibrillators and first aid.”

“Our pilot in Ormskirk and Morecambe is an exciting development, introducing a service that we are confident will save lives and giving us the opportunity to develop and refine our CFR capability before we consider extending our involvement in the NWAS network of CFRs in other areas.”

To ensure LFRS resources are used first and foremost for fires, crews will be redirected should such an incident occur whilst they are en route to a medical call.