FIREFIGHTERS are helping ambulance crews to break down doors across Oxfordshire, to save the lives of people trapped within their own homes.

Usually, police would be called to carry out forced entry if paramedics are stuck outside an ill or injured person's home.

But the working relationship between paramedics and the fire crews is estimated to have saved 200 hours of police time during a trial of the new approach in the last year.

The county's fire and rescue service started to foster a close relationship with South Central Ambulance Service five years ago, when crews began to attend emergency trauma calls after receiving training.

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The county council, which manages the fire service, has claimed the deal between the two emergency services means 'residents being treated in emergency situations in Oxfordshire have a better chance of a speedy recovery'.

Grahame Mitchell, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “By working together, this initiative sees our firefighters helping open the door to specialist treatment and care more efficiently and more effectively than emergency services have been able to before."

Mr Mitchell, also representing the Thames Valley Partnership, added: "It is another example of where joint partnership working can save valuable time and could save lives, helping to deliver improved outcomes for the communities we all serve.”

Oxford Mail: Assistant chief fire officer Grahame MitchellAssistant chief fire officer Grahame Mitchell

Grahame Mitchell

Ambulance crews across the country are said to face a 'common problem' when responding to an emergency 999 call for help.

They sometimes arrive and find that the resident, incapacitated by injury or illness, cannot reach their door.

Previously they have turned to police to force entry to a locked homes so they can provide first aid care.

However, a year-long trial across Thames Valley has shown involving firefighters in the first-call attendance can result in faster response times, less damage to property, and improved outcomes for the health of the people who have called for help.

The fire crews were trained to make safe, quick, effective access in situations where buildings are locked tight.

Using equipment carried on their vehicles, they can help reduce the damage that forcing an entry can cause.

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Over the twelve-month period of the trial, fire crews responded to 626 Thames Valley incidents where enabling entry was required, with an average response time of nine minutes.

As soon as the crews had gained access, unless their assistance was required further at that incident, they were placed on standby ready to respond to the next emergency call.

South Central Ambulance Service crews have seen a reduction in time spent waiting to enter properties and this, alongside quicker intervention, has led to faster re-deployment of their crews during the recent trial.

Thames Valley Police has also seen a benefit. It has estimated that as a result of the fire service involvement, more than 200 hours of police time has been saved.

This has helped to save money and allowed police to spend time investigating crime across the Thames Valley.

Mark Ainsworth, from South Central Ambulance Service, said: “We welcome the findings of this trial and are keen to move forward in looking at ways to make this a more established way of working.

“In many cases, the faster the response and initiation of appropriate treatment, the more positive the outcome and the quicker the recovery time for the patient. People often need immediate medical intervention and in extreme cases, a delay can be the difference between life and death.

“With their access to equipment which enables safe, quick access to a locked building, firefighters are helping our paramedics and emergency first response teams provide ill and injured residents with quicker access to the specialist treatment and care they need.”

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Oxfordshire's firefighters began to help with the most serious emergency calls, known as Red 1 and Red 2 calls, in 2015.

At the time, this was hailed as a landmark first of its kind agreement between the fire service and SCAS.

Since then, firefighters have also stood up to help the ambulance service during times when there is extra demand on paramedics, including during periods of serious winter pressure.

Most recently, firefighters began volunteering to help relieve overstretch paramedics during the start of the pandemic in April.

The small number of firefighters were trained in fast driving in an emergency and first aid temporarily worked on ambulances.

They were also kitted out with clothing and masks to protect themselves.