South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is further developing the close relationship it has with its region’s fire services with a number of firefighters volunteering to be ready to provide additional support as required.

SECAmb has been working closely with its emergency service colleagues since the start of the pandemic. During the first wave a number of firefighters received special training from SECAmb to provide additional support. Support has also included fire service staff helping to deliver medical supplies and equipment. The additional support builds on a number of already existing partnerships including Kent Fire and Rescue’s co-responder scheme which sees firefighters respond to life-threatening emergencies alongside SECAmb ambulance crews.

SECAmb has recently been working with its fire services across Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex to provide refresher training initially to 18 firefighters to enable them to step up to drive ambulances if and when required, taking into account local agreements and needs. When working, they will be paired with a member of ambulance staff on set shifts in line with patient demand. The numbers of firefighters available to assist is expected to increase as further training takes place.

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations Joe Garcia: “I am always incredibly grateful for the support of our fire service partners and especially so throughout this pandemic. I am pleased that we have a number of previously trained firefighters, who have undergone refresher training, ready to support their ambulance service colleagues as required. We look forward to working with them and more of their colleagues to strengthen our resilience. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our partner organisations for the support they continue to provide during this period of increased pressure.”

Ann Millington, Chief Executive at Kent Fire and Rescue Service: “We are pleased to be able to assist South East Coast Ambulance Service during these unprecedented times by providing seven members of our staff to drive ambulances. All have been specially trained and ready to provide this support since the start of the pandemic, and we also have staff assisting at SECAmb’s make ready centres as required. Where we can, we will always support our blue light colleagues, to maintain resilience and help keep Kent and Medway residents safe and well.”

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer, Dawn Whittaker: “East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is proud of its close association with SECAmb and is happy to support the service by seconding firefighters to drive ambulances during the pandemic. We will also continue to collaborate with SECAmb wherever possible, including assisting ambulance staff to gain access to patients in properties. Working together is essential to help combat COVID-19 and keep our communities safe.”

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton: “We are ready, willing and able to support our colleagues across the county as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first wave of the pandemic we offered our support to SECAmb in a number of ways including collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essential clinical supplies, mechanical engineering support, and fire staff were trained for the mixed crewing of ambulances if required.

“Last week our crews from Crawley Fire Station, together with our Technical Rescue Unit helped extend a mobile testing unit for staff, and we were only too happy to help SECAmb in extending this piece of equipment to provide greater capacity. Throughout the pandemic, WSFRS has robust resilience and business continuity plans to ensure the safety of its firefighters at all times, in order to maintain both community support, and maintain our critical fire and rescue activities of prevention, protection and response.”

Surrey Fire and Rescue Chief Fire Officer, Steve Owen-Hughes: “Throughout this pandemic, our brilliant staff have really stepped up to the plate to keep Surrey safe. We have a number of staff supporting many vital, lifesaving, Covid-19 additional activities and in turn also building on these strong partnerships.

“Supporting our colleagues in SECAmb is absolutely vital, especially now at the height of the pandemic. I am deeply appreciative of those who are volunteering, as well as staff who are continuing our business as usual activities – wellbeing and safety of everyone is paramount.”