A trial where firefighters respond to help people who have suffered a cardiac arrest has been extended.
The joint initiative between the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the Scottish Ambulance Service aims to increase survival rates by getting casualties vital early intervention.
It involves firefighters being sent to the emergencies to help casualties while ambulance crews make their way to the scene.
Falkirk and Livingston community fire and rescue stations are the latest to participate in the trial, which already involves stations at Bathgate, Coldstream, Hawick, Lauder, Linlithgow, Musselburgh and Turriff.
The trials are part of SFRS’s commitment to support the Scottish Government’s Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy.
SFRS Deputy Chief Officer (DCO) Alex Clark said: “This trial is part of our support for efforts to dramatically reduce the number of people in Scotland who die from out of hospital cardiac arrests.
“While paramedics and firefighters have very different roles, we often work closely together and our crews are potentially able to keep someone alive until they can get specialist medical help from our ambulance colleagues.
“Time is crucial to the chance of survival and since the trial started on 1 November last year we have already seen fire and rescue crews who arrive first on scene make that life-saving difference.
“Everything our service does is about protecting the public and the extension of this trial reflects our commitment to doing that however we can.”
SFRS is one of the partner organisations in the Save a Life for Scotland campaign, which aims to dramatically increase survival chances and save as many as 1,000 lives by 2020.
As part of the partnership approach with the ambulance service, firefighters at participating stations have received enhanced training in life-support and can provide vital early intervention until paramedics arrive.
Jim Ward, the medical director of the Scottish Ambulance Service, added: "We know that in cardiac arrest cases early CPR and defibrillation improves survival.
“By targeting cardiac arrests with more ambulance crews and additional training, the Scottish Ambulance Service has achieved a 10 per cent increase in the number of people being successfully resuscitated at scene.
"This trial with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service supports the Scottish Government’s strategy for improving survival from out of hospital cardiac arrest and aims to further increase early provision of CPR and defibrillation, alongside the national network of volunteer Community First Responders.
“If a fire service resource with a crew who are trained to provide high quality CPR and have a defibrillator is nearest to the patient, then Ambulance Control will dispatch them at the same time as the ambulance crew.
"It means they can provide these life-saving interventions while the ambulance is on its way. This work is aimed at improving the way emergency services work together in order to save lives.”
Almost 3,500 people in Scotland undergo attempted resuscitation each year after an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Fewer than one in 20 live to return home.
Early intervention is crucial to a casualty’s chances of survival and firefighters have been delivering CPR training to people throughout Scotland to give individuals the confidence to step forward and potentially save a life.
A partnership between SFRS and the British Heart Foundation saw the charity provide CPR training kits to every fire station in the country.
Deputy Chief Officer Clark explained: “Everyone can perform CPR and we want to hear from anyone who would like to learn the life-saving technique.
“Firefighters are trained to provide emergency first aid and by sharing this skill we can equip people throughout the country with the knowledge that could prevent tragedies.”
Anyone interested in learning CPR is encouraged to contact their local fire station and arrange a time to visit.
The announcement of the extension to the trial comes today as SFRS supports this year’s Scottish Cardiac Arrest Symposium, hosted by the Resuscitation Research Group at the University of Edinburgh.
The event, being held at John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh is being streamed live and SFRS is co-hosting it.
Both the SFRS National Headquarters at Cambuslang and the service’s North Service Delivery HQ in Aberdeen are serving as satellite points for the main event.
The symposium highlights the change in culture and clinical outcomes across the country following the launch of Scotland’s strategy for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
It will feature a number of national and international speakers talking about current and new developments in out of hospital cardiac arrest care, both in the pre-hospital and hospital phases, as well as stories from survivors and their families.
For the first time the Newton Award will be presented to someone who has made an outstanding contribution in the field.
SFRS is delighted to see that Hawick, one of the fire stations participating in the co-response trial, is a nominee for this award.
At the main event in Edinburgh firefighters will lead a workshop for expert CPR training.
View a short film showing the importance of the co-responding trial with the ambulance service through the eyes of a patient above.
It features a man who suffered a cardiac arrest at home and was successfully resuscitated by firefighters from Hawick, who conducted CPR until paramedics arrived on scene.
Further information is available www.scas.scot.