29 February 2016 - Life-saving scheme with Merseyside fire crews

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS) crews will help to deliver life-saving treatment for cardiac arrest patients in partnership with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).

MFRA Cardia Scheme

From 29 February, 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 North West Ambulance and Merseyside Fire and Rescue 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.

Similar Schemes launched in Lancashire and Greater Manchester in 2015 have proved to be very successful.

There will be no change to the system of assigning and sending ambulances and medical staff to emergencies. Suspected cardiac arrests are categorised as Red 1 calls, with a national target of eight minutes to respond for 75 per cent of cases- regardless of who reaches the scene first, the clock won’t be stopped until an NWAS resource is in attendance. The scheme works in a similar way to NWAS’ volunteer Community First Responder scheme, where trained members of the public are despatched to life-threatening emergency calls within their local community.

Under the new scheme MF&RS will be contacted when a suspected cardiac arrest is reported near to a Fire Station. The added advantage to despatching fire crews, is 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 Fire-fighters from MF& RS 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.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service said: “Emergency services are already very successful in working closely together, so this scheme makes sense and is a natural progression for us.

“Firefighters attending a cardiac arrest are equipped with a trauma bag containing resuscitation equipment, a first aid kit and a defibrillator. Only firefighters who have received the appropriate training and are fully qualified to use this equipment will administer treatment to people who have suffered cardiac arrest. This is in addition to the first aid training all firefighters receive.”

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

“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 around 2100 incidents in Merseyside where the patient had suffered 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.”